Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. HC 1.5 Youth Suicides

01/01/2000

Suicide, like homicide, has come to play a proportionately larger role in teen deaths over the past several decades. Between 1970 and 1990, the suicide rate for youth ages 15 through 19 nearly doubled, from 5.9 to 11.1 per 100,000 (see Figure HC 1.5). After remaining stable from 1990 to 1994 at approximately 11 deaths per 100,000 youth ages 15 through 19, the rate decreased slightly to 8.9 per 100,000 in 1998.

Differences by Gender. Male teens are more likely than females to commit suicide (see Table HC 1.5). The suicide rate for white males ages 15 through 19 was 15.3 per 100,000 in 1998, more than five times the rate of 3.0 per 100,000 for white females. Among blacks, males had a rate almost six times that of females for youth ages 15 through 19 in 1998 (10.7 and 1.8 per 100,000, respectively).

Differences by Race. White males ages 15 through 19 have long had a higher suicide rate than their black male peers (see Table HC 1.5). In 1970, white males ages 15 through 19 were twice as likely as black males to commit suicide (9.4 versus 4.7 per 100,000). However, the gap between white and black male suicide rates has narrowed in recent years, with suicide rates of 15.3 and 10.7 per 100,000, respectively, according to 1998 white and black males.15 Among females ages 15 through 19, whites and blacks were equally likely to commit suicide in 1970, with rates of 2.9 per 100,000. By 1975, white female suicide rates were more than twice that of their black peers ages 15 through 19. White female suicide rates have remained higher than black female rates since1975.

Suicide Rates for Younger Youth. While considerably lower, suicide rates for youth ages 10 through 14 have followed trends similar to those among older youth, with males having higher rates of suicide than females and whites having higher suicide rates than blacks (see Table HC 1.5). In this age group, suicide is infrequent for both sexes and races, making gender or racial differences small as well.

Figure HC 1.5 Youth suicides (rate per 100,000) in the United States, by age: Selected years, 1970-1998

Figure HC 1.5 Youth suicides (rate per 100,000) in the United States, by age: Selected years, 1970-1998

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Table 291, p485-490, Mortality Statistics Branch, Division of Vital Statistics.


Table HC 1.5 Youth suicides (rate per 100,000) in the United States, by age, gender, and race: Selected years, 1970-1998

  1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
All youth
Ages 10-14 0.6 0.8 0.8 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.6
Ages 15-19 5.9 7.5 8.5 9.9 11.1 11.0 10.8 10.9 11.1 10.5 9.7 9.5 8.9
White males
Ages 10-14 1.1 1.4 1.4 2.5 2.3 2.4 2.6 2.4 2.5 2.8 2.3 2.5 2.6
Ages 15-19 9.4 12.9 15.0 17.1 19.3 19.1 18.4 18.5 18.7 18.4 16.3 16.0 15.3
White females
Ages 10-14 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.9 0.9 0.8 1.1 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.9
Ages 15-19 2.9 3.1 3.3 4.1 4.0 4.2 3.7 4.2 3.5 3.3 3.8 3.5 3.0
Black males
Ages 10-14 0.3 0.2 0.5 1.6 2.0 2.0 2.3 2.1 1.6 1.9 1.9 1.4
Ages 15-19 4.7 6.1 5.6 8.2 11.5 12.2 14.8 14.4 16.6 13.8 11.5 11.4 10.7
Black females
Ages 10-14 0.4 0.3 0.1
Ages 15-19 2.9 1.5 1.6 1.5 1.9 1.9 2.4 2.3 1.8 2.7 1.8

— = Not calculated because of unreliability due to infrequency of the event.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Table 291, p485-490, Mortality Statistics Branch, Division of Vital Statistics.


15 The race disparity in the suicide rate between all white youth ages 10 through 19 and all black youth ages 10 through 19 narrowed substantially between 1980 and 1995, largely due to the increase of suicide among black youth. In 1980, white youth (ages 10-19) had a suicide rate that was 157 percent greater than that of their black peers; by 1995, the rate among whites was 42 percent greater than the rate among blacks. [These data, not shown here, can be found in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 20, 1998. Suicide among Black Youths—United States, 1980-1995. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 47 (10).]

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