1. Zolot, Joan PA


Girls ages 10 to 14 show the greatest increase in suicide rates.


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Suicide is the second leading cause of death among America's youth. Historically, suicide rates have been higher in boys than in girls, while rates of suicide attempts are higher in girls. The distinction is attributed to boys more often choosing more deadly, and therefore more successful, means of taking their lives. A new study, though, shows a steady decrease since 2007 in the gap between male and female youth suicide rates-and the change is not because of male suicide rates decreasing but because of female rates increasing.

Figure. A photo of D... - Click to enlarge in new window A photo of Dianne Grossman and her daughter Mallory on vacation. Mallory committed suicide at the age of 12 after experiencing constant bullying from classmates.

Researchers studied trends in suicide rates from 1975 to 2016 for male and female youths in two age groups: ages 10 to 14 and 15 to 19. Between 1975 and 2016, there were more than 85,000 suicide deaths among male and female youths in the United States; 80.1% were among male youths, 19.9% were among female youths.


For both age groups, suicide rates for male and female youths increased during the late 1970s and 1980s, then declined during the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2007, suicide rates again began to increase. While male youth suicides continue to outnumber female youth suicides, the annual increases in female youth suicide rates are higher than those for male youths, thereby narrowing the gap between the sexes.


Female youths ages 10 to 14 showed the largest jump in suicide rates, with increases of 12.7% annually from 2007 to 2016, compared with 7.1% annually for boys the same age. In the same period, suicide rates increased 7.9% annually for female teens ages 15 to 19 and 3.5% for male teens. Hanging and suffocation increased as a cause of death among girls, suggesting that the use of these more lethal means may be a factor in the increasing number of suicide deaths among female youths.


A commentary accompanying the published study noted the possible influence of social media on increasing suicide rates among female youths, who typically spend more hours on social media than male youths and may experience more cyberbullying. Determining the underlying causes of the increase would help to focus prevention efforts.-Joan Zolot, PA




Ruch DA, et al. JAMA Netw Open 2019 May 3;2(5):e193886; Luby J, Kertz S. JAMA Netw Open 2019 May 3;2(5):e193916.