HC Statistics Public Health

Why are suicide rates on the rise?

This is the key question we are left with after some startling news from a startling article from Oren et al. in JAMA. Using data from the CDC Underlying Cause of Death database between 2000 and 2017, they find that:

The suicide rate at ages 15 to 19 years and 20 to 24 years increased in 2017 to its highest point since 2000, with a recent increase especially in males and in ages 15 to 19 years. 

The key figures from the article are below:

So what are the reasons for this rise? The study does not get into the causes of the rise in suicide, but PBS Newshour offers ideas for speculation. One possibility is the growing opioid epidemic. Another potential culprit is additional mental health stress due to social media. The data could also be a statistical anomaly. If suicide is less stigmatized, families may feel less pressure to try to hide that a death was due to suicide.

1 Comment

  1. I wish these suicide trend papers would use all the data we have. The overall 15-24 suicide rate is about what it was in the early to mid-90s, and the overall age-adjusted suicide rate is about where it was in the mid-80s. Now, it is a tragedy that these rates have risen from their low-points in the early-2000s, but looking only from trough to peak rather than peak to peak on the trend line doesn’t help us really understand the issue. This is also mainly a white (with some contribution from Native Americans) problem. This info should inform any speculation about rising rates. It gives some credence to the opioid epidemic theory, but the rates were rising starting in the late-90s/early-aughts. I doubt that was being caused by opioids.

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