Intended for healthcare professionals


Suicides in young US people increase 56% over a decade

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 21 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6108
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The suicide rate in the US rose by 56% among people aged 10-24 between 2007 (6.8 per 100 000) and 2017 (10.6 per 100 000), figures have shown.1

A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, in 2017, suicide and homicide were the second and third leading causes of death in people aged 15-19 and 20-24 and ranked second and fifth among people aged 10-14.

It found that, while the suicide rate among people aged 10-24 had remained steady from 2000 to 2007, it increased by an average of 3% a year from 2007 to 2013 and then by 7% a year from 2013 to 2017.

The homicide rate also remained stable from 2000 to 2007 (9.0 per 100 000) before falling by 23% until 2014 (6.7) and then rising again by 18% by 2017 (7.9).

The findings are not a complete surprise. Previous reports have shown that the overall suicide rates have been climbing in the US, especially in sparsely populated western states.2

Researchers analysing the increases have previously said that the rise could “reflect more accurate reporting, possibly due to coroners and families being more willing to label the death as suicide, or changes in the use of opioids or incidence of depression.”3

However, Lisa Horowitz, a paediatric psychologist at the US National Institute of Mental Health, told The BMJ that people needed to wake up to this “public health crisis.”

She said, “Just looking at these numbers, it’s hard not to find them completely disturbing. It should be a call to action.

“If you had kids suddenly dying at these rates from a new disease or infection, there would be a huge outcry. But most people do not even know this is happening. It’s not recognised for the public health crisis it has become.”


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