Suicides and homicides are on the rise among children, teens and young adults in the United States, according to a new study by the government that underscores what US experts say is a disturbing trend among the young.
The report, published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that from 2007 to 2017, the rate of Americans ages 10 to 24 who died by suicide rose by 56 percent.
That rate had held stable during the seven years prior, from 2000 to 2007, the CDC said.
And rates of homicides in the same age group, which had been declining from 2007 to 2014, increased by 18 percent over the next three years, according to the CDC.
Suicide was the second leading cause of death among Americans ages 10 to 24 in 2017, according to the report. And homicide ranked third for those ages 15 to 24 that same year.
The new statistics highlight “a continuing public health issue, since these are among the leading causes of death among those aged 10 to 24,” said the report’s lead author, Sally Curtin, a statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Until 2009, the homicide rate among young people was higher than the suicide rate. But the suicide rate has outpaced the homicide rate since 2011, Curtin and her colleagues reported.
Particularly dramatic was the increase in suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds. Kids in this age group “have the lowest rates, but they’ve almost tripled between 2007 and 2017,” Curtin said.
No one knows exactly why the suicide rates are rising among the young in the US. But experts say a leading cause is the long use of social media among children, teens and young adults.
Studies have shown that the amount of screen time “is associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation,” said Dr. Igor Galynker, a professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine and director of the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Suicide Research Laboratory in New York City.
The increasing rates of suicide and homicide among young Americans “represents a silent epidemic that’s been going on for more than 10 years in the US and which has been gaining force,” said Dr. Albert Wu, an internist and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Suicide is an enormous problem hiding in plain sight, perhaps in part, because we are reluctant as a society to talk about it,” said Wu.