By Sy Mukherjee
May 16, 2018

The number of young Americans and adolescents contemplating or attempting suicide rose sharply between 2008 and 2015, according to an analysis of hospital data published in the journal Pediatrics. The troubling increase disproportionately affects girls, and suicidal thoughts and attempts are more likely to occur during the school year.

“Encounters for [suicidal ideas and suicide attempts] at U.S. children’s hospitals increased steadily from 2008 to 2015 and accounted for an increasing percentage of all hospital encounters,” wrote the study authors. “Increases were noted across all age groups, with consistent seasonal patterns that persisted over the study period.”

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Researchers used hospital billing data to suss out the teen suicide trends over six years. In 2008, 0.66% of hospital visits across 31 children’s hospitals were related to suicide; by 2015, that had risen to 1.82%, a near tripling of the rate. Young Americans aged 15 to 17 experienced the most significant increases, as did girls, and suicidal thoughts and attempts peaked in the spring and fall while declining in the summer.

It’s unclear exactly why more teens are contemplating suicide and self-harm. But the new study adds to evidence that mental health problems are taking a bigger and bigger toll on adolescents.

Suicide rates, teens aged 15 to 19

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that there “were 1,537 suicides among males and 524 among females aged 15–19 years” in 2015, representing a significant increase from the early 2000s. Suicide is typically the third leading cause of death for young Americans, but rose to the second leading cause of death in 2016.

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