June 25, 2019
2 min read

Adolescent suicides reach highest recorded rate since 2000

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Photo of Oren Miron
Oren Miron

The suicide rate for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years and young adults aged 20 to 24 years increased in 2017 to its highest point since 2000, according to a research letter published in JAMA.

“Adolescent suicides have reached their highest recorded rate, and the suicide increase is especially high in adolescent males,” Oren Miron, MA, from the department of biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School, told Infectious Diseases in Children.

Miron said the rate exceeded those in years dating back before 2000, but those estimates were not peer reviewed.

Miron and colleagues analyzed the CDC Underlying Cause of Death database — a national dataset containing death certificates and population estimates from the United States Census Bureau. They identified suicides from 2000 to 2017 based on ICD-10 codes, according to the study.

Both in aggregate and separately, the researchers examined suicide rates among males and females aged 15 to 19 years and 20 to 24 years.

Miron and colleagues found that 6,241 suicides occurred in individuals aged 15 to 24 years in 2017. Of these, 5,016 were male and 1,225 were female, according to the study.

The rate of suicides in 2017 for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years was 11.8 per 100,000, with 17.9 per 100,000 in males and 5.4 per 100,000 in females. It was eight per 100,000 for this cohort in 2000.

Infographic on adolescent suicide 

The annual percentage change for adolescents from 2000 to 2007 was 1.7% (95% CI, 3.6% to 0.3%), compared with an annual percentage change of 3.1% (95% CI, 0.5%-5.7%) for 2007 to 2014 and 10% (95% CI, 4.3%-16%) for 2014 to 2017, the researchers wrote. Male suicide for this age group had an annual percentage change of 2.2% (95% CI, 3.6% to 0.7%) for 2000 to 2007, a 2.6% (95% CI, 1.2%-4%) increase for 2007 to 2015 and a 14.2% (95% CI, 2.9%-26.7%) increase for 2010 to 2017. Female suicide had an annual percentage change of 1.8% (95% CI, 0.9% to 4.6%) for 2000 to 2010 and an increasing trend of 8.2% (95% CI, 5%-11.5%) for 2010 to 2017, according to the study.

Young adults aged 20 to 24 years had an overall suicide rate of 17 per 100,000 in 2017, with males at 27.1 per 100,000 and females at 6.2 per 100,000. The overall rate in 2000 was 12.5 per 100,000, with an annual percentage change of 1.1% (95% CI, 0.7%-1.4%) for 2000 to 2013 and 5.6% (95% CI, 3.6%-7.6%) for 2013 to 2017. Males had an annual percentage change of 0.5% (95% CI, 0.1%-0.9%) for 2000 to 2013 and a larger increasing trend of 5.5% (95% CI, 3.4%-7.7%) for 2013 to 2017, whereas rates for females had an increasing trend of 4% (95% CI, 3.6%-4.5%) from 2000 to 2017, Miron and colleagues found.

“The recent increase in adolescent suicide rates suggests that patients could be at greater risk for suicide, and that the amount of patients requiring clinical help could increase,” Miron said. “Therefore, there is a need to give clinicians more resources to address this alarming increase in adolescent suicide.” – by Joe Gramigna

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the correct rate of suicides in 2017 among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years — 11.8 per 100,000. The editor’s regret the error.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.