Suicide rates among adolescents and young adults, in the United States have skyrocketed to their highest level in almost twenty years. According to a new study, there were 47 percent more suicides in 2017, among people between the ages of 15 and 19, then were reported in the year 2000. In addition, it appears there were 36 percent more suicides among those aged 20 to 24, as well.
Looking at the data another way, suicide claimed more than 6,200 lives among those between the ages of 15 and 24, making it the second-leading cause of death in this age group in 2017. The leading cause of death, that year, was unintentional motor vehicle accidents, with a margin of only about 500.
The study was conducted a team of researchers at Harvard Medical School, who assembled data collected by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC tracks deaths—as well as their “underlying causes”—across the country.
The data also shows that suicide rates among [younger] females have been more notably on the rise in this time frame. As a matter of fact, the rates of these deaths have jumped more dramatically since 2009 among girls between the ages of 15 and 19. A similarly noticeable spike also appears in the timeline among younger males, starting in 2014.
Of course, simply observing statistics doesn’t do any good without understanding their relationship or their weight. Thus, researchers theorize that the upward suicide trend could be connected to the current opioid crisis. Harvard Medical School research associate Oren Miron notes that addiction to opioids, in particular, come with added stressors that might be harder for teens to deal with.
Others suggest that social media might play a role, as could bullying; and, likely, a combination of social media and bullying. Still, Miron cautions that the study did not actually identify any causes. In addition, parents and coroners are not always willing to report these more sensitive and extreme causes of death, which means death certificates related to suicide can be less reliable data.
The results of this study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).