May 17, 2019
The long-standing gap between male and female youth suicide rates is starting to close as female youth suicide rates have soared in the last 40 years, according to a new study.
The study, published Friday in the JAMA Network, examined more than 85,000 youth suicide deaths between 1975 and 2016.
Historically, the study explained, suicide rates have been higher in males than in females across all age groups, but the study’s data shows that gap closing among young people.
Among data from 2007 to 2015, the study found greater than 50 percent growth in suicides by females between the ages of 15 and 19, while the males of the same age group grew just 31 percent. Elsewhere, suicide rates among females aged 10 to 14 years old tripled between 1999 and 2014.
As far as the volume of youth suicide deaths in the years examined by the study, the overwhelming majority of suicides are still committed by males: From 1975 to 2016, 68,085 boys committed suicide, compared to 16,966 girls.
The information is still important, according to Center of Suicide Prevention lead researcher Donna Ruch. "We're seeing, 'OK, the narrowing of the gap is real,'" Ruch told USA Today. "What happens next is in terms of suicide prevention."
The study’s authors admitted that while the research is helpful in defining emerging trends in suicide rates, they still can’t explain the underlying reasons for the increase in suicides among female girls and young women.
But the authors said they, like Ruch, believe the study presents a clear call to action.
“The findings of this study reveal a significant and disproportionate increase in suicide rates for female youth relative to male youth, particularly in younger individuals,” the authors wrote in their conclusions.
“This narrowing gap underscores the urgency to identify suicide prevention strategies that address the unique developmental needs of female youth.”