The Grapevine

Suicide Rates Among Girls And Young Women Continue To Climb, And Experts Have No Idea Why

Suicide
Suicide rates among girls and young women in the U.S. are steadily increasing. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Suicide rates among women of younger age groups in the United States are steadily rising, and experts don’t exactly know why. A report issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that suicide rates among girls and young women in the U.S. continue to rise at a much faster pace compared to boys and young men.

"The data don't allow us to determine why," Thomas Simon, a suicide expert with CDC who helped lead the study, told NBC News. "Is it social media? Is it conventional media? Is it access to other methods? If somebody is close to someone who is acting this way, it is OK to talk to them. If they are vulnerable, it is important not to leave that person alone."

Researchers from the CDC gathered mortality data using the National Vital Statistics System from 1994 to 2012. Gender, age group, race/ethnicity, region of residence, and mechanism of suicide were all used to examine trends in suicide rates. Findings showed that suicide rates among both male and female Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 have been up and down over the course of the 18-year study.

Suicide rates among young females went from 2.2 to 3.4 per 100,000 between 2007 and 2013. This is the highest suicide rate for this age group in the U.S. since a 3.1 rate was recorded back in 1981. Although suicide rates among boys and young men have also increased since 2007 and remain three times higher than female rates for ages 10 to 24, this increase has been steadier in young female Americans.

While drug overdoses remain the mechanism for suicide most used by younger females, more girls and young women are resorting to hanging and other forms of suffocation. Suicide by suffocation is more lethal and, unfortunately, results in more completed suicides compared to poisoning.

According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, contributing to 5,178 deaths in 2012 alone. The three most common mechanisms of suicide in the U.S. are firearm, suffocation (including hanging), and poisoning (including drug overdose). Firearms tend to be the most popular mechanism of suicide among boys and young men between the ages of 10 and 24; however, suffocation surpassed firearms as the leading mechanism for females in 2001.

The CDC advises all media outlets to follow established guidelines when reporting on suicide incidents and clusters to avoid spreading “suicide contagion,” a process by which exposure to a suicide or suicidal behavior can influence another person to think about, attempt, or die from suicide.

Source: Dahlberg L, Luo F, Sullivan E, Annest J, Simon T. Suicide Trends Among Persons Aged 10–24 Years — United States, 1994–2012. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2015. 

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