Black children between the ages of 5 and 12 years were nearly two times more likely to die by suicide when compared with white children of the same age, according to findings published in JAMA Pediatrics.
“While the suicide rate was lower for black youth than white youth overall, we found a striking change in that trend when we analyzed the suicide rates by the two age groups,” Lisa Horowitz, PhD, from the NIMH Intramural Research Program, said in a press release. “Gaining an understanding of these and other contributing factors may someday lead to targeted, culturally sensitive interventions and help reverse the trend in suicide rates in the U.S.”
To evaluate the similarities and differences in suicide rates of black and white youth by age between 2001 and 2015, Horowitz and colleagues analyzed data collected From the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) of the CDC. Data assessed all listed suicides as the main cause of death for children between 5 and 17 years of age between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2015.
The researchers then categorized suicides by sex, age and race (black or white) and used population estimates from the WISQARS to determine suicide rates. After suicide rates were calculated, the researchers assessed for age-specific incidence ratios (IRRs), associated natural logarithms and 95% CIs to compare rates of suicide by race using negative binomial regression.
Of the suicides included in the study, Horowitz and colleagues identified 1,661 deaths attributable to black children. Most of these suicides were attributedto boys (73.8% male, 26.2% female). White youths were associated with 13,341 suicides within the study period, with 74.3% of suicides attributable to boys and 25.7% to girls. The rate of suicide observed by the researchers demonstrated that the suicide rate was approximately 42% lower in black children (1.26 per 100,000) when compared with white children (2.16 per 100,000).
When age was considered, the researchers reported that black children aged between 5 and 12 years were significantly more likely to experience death caused by suicide when compared with white children (IRR = 1.82; 95% CI, 1.59-2.07). When children aged between 13 and 17 years were assessed, suicide was about 50% less likely for black youths when compared with white youths (IRR = 0.51; 95% CI, 0.48-0.53).
After assessing suicide rates by sex, Horowitz and colleagues observed a similar pattern as identified when examining suicide rates by age. Over the course of the study period, the researchers observed no change in suicide rates based on the age and race of the child (IRR = 1.05; 95% CI, 0.77-1.42 for children aged between 5 and 12 years; IRR = 1.04; 95% CI, 0.93-1.17 for children aged between 13 and 17 years).
“Our findings underscore the need to explore potential race-related differences in mechanisms of suicide and to develop more effective suicide detection and prevention efforts for black children,” the researchers wrote. “Ongoing surveillance efforts must reflect the dynamic association between race and age-related risk for youth suicide.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: Horowitz reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for a full list of other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.