Suicide 477

suicides. For those aged 15 to 19, there were 1,802 suicide deaths among 19,146,000 teens.

Although the overall suicide rate has declined over the past 20 years from 12.1 per 100,000 in 1979 to 11.3 per 100,000 in 1998, the suicide rate for teens 15 to 19 years old has increased by 6 percent. For adolescents 10 to 14 years old, the suicide rate increased by more than 100 percent over that time period. And while youth suicide rates did decrease significantly between 1993 and 1998, suicide was still the third leading cause of death for young people 10 to 19 years old in 1998. More teenagers died from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AiDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

Gender Issues

Teenage boys are about four times more likely to kill themselves than are teenage girls. Among young people 20 to 24 years of age, there were 2,384 suicide deaths among 17,488,000 people in this age group, and the gender ratio in this age range was about six boys to every one girl.

While more boys die from suicide, more girls attempt suicide and report higher rates of depression. Experts believe the gender difference in suicide completion is most likely due to the differences in suicide methods, since boys are more likely to use firearms, which are more likely to lead to a fatal outcome.

Culture Issues

In 1998 white boys accounted for 61 percent of all suicides among youth aged 10 to 19, and white boys and girls together accounted for more than 84 percent of all youth suicides. However, the suicide rate among Native American teenage boys is exceedingly high in comparison with the overall rate for boys 10 to 19 (19.3 per 100,000 vs. 8.5 per 100,000).

The suicide rate has been increasing most rapidly among African-American boys aged 10 to 19— more than doubling from 2.9 per 100,000 to 6.1 per 100,000 from 1981 to 1998. On the other hand, a 1999 national survey of high school students found that Hispanic boys and girls were significantly more likely than white students to have reported a suicide attempt (12.8 percent vs. 6.7 percent). Among Hispanic students, girls (18.9 per cent) were almost three times more likely than boys (6.6 percent) to have reported a suicide attempt. The most likely explanation for ethnic rate differences is the variations in cultural factors that promote or inhibit suicide.

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