Deaths among those in the U.S. aged 10 through 19 increased sharply from 2013 through 2016, according to a study released June 1, 2018, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) via the National Center for Health Statistics. The rise has been labeled a “wake-up call.”
What makes the study so alarming is that, from 1999 to 2013, the death rate among young adults went down 33 percent. But from 2013 to 2016, the death rate rose 12 percent. The rise in deaths was nearly all injury-related, not disease-related. Injury-related deaths include car crashes, homicides, drownings, poisoning, and suicides. Non-injury or “natural” deaths consist of diseases and infections.
Even the CDC Was Surprised
Statistician Sally Curtin of the CDC, the lead author of the study, was shocked by the findings, saying, “I thought that we would be documenting a decline. We were surprised that there was such a broad increase across so many causes of death.”
Among injury-related deaths, 62 percent were caused by traffic accidents, with poisoning (which is largely drug overdoses) taking another 16 percent of young people during the three-year time span. But the bombshell was the increase in suicide: From 2013 to 2016, children taking their own lives increased by 56 percent.
Generally, the most frequent causes of death among young adults in the U.S. are motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide. Worldwide, the most frequent causes of death among young adults are motor vehicle collisions, lower respiratory infections, and suicide. Sadly, approximately 1.2 million youth deaths around the world each year are largely preventable.
Suicide a Growing Concern
In the U.S., suicide is one of three causes of fatalities that are on the increase. Taking one’s own life is the tenth leading cause of death in our country; from 1999 to 2016, the suicide rate went up almost 30 percent. Almost 45,000 Americans 10 or older died from suicide during 2016. As CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., said, “Unfortunately, our data show that the problem is getting worse.”
Among teens the story is even grimmer. Suicide rates among those aged 10 through 19 years rocketed 56 percent from 2007 to 2016. According to the CDC, increases were greatest among females; for girls aged 15 to 19, suicide rates doubled from 2007 to 2015, the highest the rate has been in 40 years. The CDC also stated that emergency department data showed increases in admissions for “nonfatal self-harm,” a known precursor to suicide attempts.
Dr. Schuchat has characterized suicide as “more than a mental health issue. We think that a comprehensive approach to suicide is what’s needed. If we only look at this as a mental health issue, we won’t make the progress that we need.”
So far, no one has been able to pin down why deaths among the young have risen sharply. Some have attributed it to an increase in poverty, while others blame social media pressures. Whatever the reason, we pray that the deadly trend reverses itself soon.