Suicide Risk in Black vs White Youths Significantly Mediated by Age

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Researchers identified 1661 suicide deaths among black youths and 13,341 suicide deaths among white youths during the study period.
Researchers identified 1661 suicide deaths among black youths and 13,341 suicide deaths among white youths during the study period.

In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers examined age-related racial disparity in suicide rates among children and adolescents in the United States and found that age strongly moderated the difference in suicide rate between white and black children and adolescents.

Researchers extracted data on suicide as cause of death among children and adolescents age 5 to 17 years from January 2001 to December 2015 from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data collection included annual number of deaths by sex, age, and race. Suicide rates were calculated using population estimates obtained from the database.

Researchers identified 1661 suicide deaths among black children and adolescents (1225 boys [73.8%]) and 13,341 suicide deaths among white children and adolescents (9916 boys [74.3%]) during the study period. For the total cohort, the suicide risk was approximately 42% lower among black children and adolescents (1.26 per 100,000) compared with white children and adolescents (2.16 per 100,000). This racial disparity in suicide risk was strongly moderated by age. Among children aged 5 to 12 years, blacks had a significantly higher incidence of suicide than whites (incidence rate ratio, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.59-2.07). However, for adolescents aged 13 to 17 years, the suicide risk was approximately 50% lower among blacks than among whites (incidence rate ratio, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.48-0.53). These trends remained consistent when stratified by sex and did not change significantly over the study period, indicating that these disparities were not explicable by current events.  

These results challenge the public perception that suicide rates are uniformly higher among white children compared with black children; for children younger than 13 years, the suicide rate was approximately twice as high for black children. Further studies should explore the most effective methods of suicide detection and prevention efforts among children and adolescents and identify the social determinants influencing suicide risk in this demographic.

Reference

Bridge JA, Horowitz LM, Fontanella CA, et al. Age-related racial disparity in suicide rates among US youths from 2001 through 2015 [published online May 21, 2018]. JAMA Pediatrics. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.0399

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