NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Youth Suicide Rates Down -- But Still High

December 14, 2001

In 1998, the latest year for which government data are available, suicide was the third most common cause of death for Americans between 15 and 24 years of age -- after accidents and murder. In fact, more adolescents and young adults killed themselves than died from the next seven main causes of death.

  • The suicide rate for this age group tripled between 1950 and 1994 -- from 4.5 to 13.7 per 100,000.
  • Over the same period, the suicide rate for adults and the elderly actually went down.
  • Since then the youngsters' rate has drifted down to 11.1.
  • Young women attempt suicide more often than young men -- but the males are nearly six times more likely to be successful.

The teenage rate for girls of 3.3 per 100,000 is nearly identical to that in Europe. But the 18.6 rate for boys is much higher than the European figure of 12.

Young whites are more likely to kill themselves than blacks -- though the rate for black males has risen sharply since 1980.

The highest rate of all is among young Native American males -- more than 40 per 100,000.

Source: "Such a Waste," Economist, December 8, 2001.


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