Teens Made Up Larger Share of Suicides Early in the Pandemic, Study Finds

Adolescent suicides made up a larger share of suicides at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to prepandemic years, according to data from 14 states.

In 2020, individuals ages 10-19 comprised a significantly higher proportion of total suicides versus the prepandemic period of 2015-2019 (6.5% vs 5.9%, respectively), a relative 10% increase, reported Marie-Laure Charpignon, MSc, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and colleagues.

While there was also an increase in the absolute number of adolescent suicides in 2020, at 903 versus 835.6 on average in the prepandemic years, it was not statistically significant, the authors stated in a JAMA Pediatrics research letter.

The mental health effects of the pandemic on adolescents have been widely reported, although prior research found no increase in suicide rates among adults. However, Charpignon’s group noted that “suicide-risk screenings have yielded higher positive rates than during the prepandemic period.”

They examined data from 14 state public health departments from 2015 to 2020 among adolescents, ages 10-19, as well as across all ages (overall). The 14 states spanned all 10 Department of Health and Human Services regions. The data comprised 32% of all U.S. residents and about a third of all adolescents, the authors noted.

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