The rate of suicide and homicide has increased in recent years among young people in the United States, according to a new federal report.
The suicide rate among people aged 10 to 24 has increased by 56% between 2007 and 2017, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of homicide deaths decreased by 23% from 2007 to 2014, before increasing by 18% until 2017.
Violent death, including murder and suicide, is one of the leading causes of premature death for the age group. Around 2010, the mortality rate for suicides among adolescents and young people exceeded the death toll for homicide, according to the report.
"The odds of a person of this age group dying from suicide is greater than the murder, when it was the opposite," said Sally Curtin, a statesman at the CDC and author of the report. "When one of the main causes of death among our young people is on the rise, it is necessary that we all pay attention and discover what is happening."
Suicide rates in general have increased in the United States in all ages and ethnic groups, increasing by about 30% from 1999 to 2016. In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 and 24, following involuntary injuries, such as a traffic accident or drug overdose. Deaths from murder are in third place, according to a CDC report in June 2019.
Ms. Curtin and a colleague, Melonie Heron, extracted death certificate data from the CDC's National Vital Statistics System, examining the underlying cause of death for people aged 10 to 24 years. They analyzed data from 2000 to 2017, the last year of CDC data available.
Both deaths from suicide and homicide in the age group were relatively stable from 2000 to 2007, the report said.
In the following decade, suicide deaths increased from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 to 10.6 deaths, with 2,449 more suicides in 2017 than in 2007. While children ages 10 to 14 had by far the lowest suicide rate, the rate almost tripled from 2007 to 2017.
"Unfortunately, it's not surprising, but it's very disturbing," said Benjamin Shain, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the NorthShore Medical Group in Illinois, who says he sees more and more teenage patients at risk of suicide. "Seeing it statistically across the country strikes me in a different way."
Despite the increased concern about suicide rates, researchers are not sure of the exact causes. Increased depression among adolescents, drug use, stress and access to firearms could all be contributing factors, experts say.
Some mental health experts suggest that the use of social media among adolescents could fuel the increase in mental health conditions and lead to an increased risk of suicide, and some initial studies have linked the use of the smartphone to anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation among adolescents.
The recent visibility of suicide in the media and online could also increase suicide mortality rates, experts say.
Murder deaths among youth in the United States have dropped dramatically since the 1990s and have been mostly in decline and stable until 2014, says Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Prevention of Youth Violence.
The increase in mortality rates for homicide in 2015 and 2016 was largely concentrated in some cities, such as St. Louis and Chicago.
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The increase in homicides is probably linked to drug markets, poverty and the breakdown of relations between the police and the community, according to experts on youth violence, but it is difficult to discern what is influencing national change.
The school-related shootings represent less than 2% of all deaths from juvenile murder in the United States, according to the CDC. While the mass shootings linked to the school attract a lot of attention, they probably do not influence the national trend.
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2018 suggests that the slight upward trend in juvenile murder deaths from 2014 to 2017 has begun to reverse.
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