CHICAGO (Reuters) - A troubling one-year spike in youth suicides in the United States reported last year is not a fluke and should be taken seriously, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
They analyzed the most recent youth suicide data and found that while rates fell about 5 percent in 2005 after a large increase in 2004, they still were far higher than would have been expected based on historical trends.
“While there has been a decline in 2005, it hasn’t brought us back to where we would expect rates to be,” said Jeff Bridge of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an 18 percent increase in suicide rates for Americans under age 19 in 2004, reversing more than a decade of declines.
Because the 2004 increase in youth suicides coincided with strict government warnings about the use of antidepressants in teenagers and adolescents, some doctors suspect this may be the reason behind the spike.
Bridge and colleagues studied 2005 data on suicides among youth aged 10 to 19 from the National Vital Statistics Systems at the CDC. They compared actual suicide rates in 2004 and 2005 to expected suicide rates based on data from 1996 to 2003.
They found suicide rates among youth aged 10 to 19 fell to 4.49 per 100,000 in 2005, compared with 4.74 per 100,000 in 2004. The rates in both years were still significantly higher than expected based on historical trend data.
In 2004, they said there were 326 more suicides than expected and in 2005, there were 292 more suicides than expected.
Bridge said the study suggests the higher rate of teen suicides seen in 2004 persisted in 2005.
“Attention must now be directed toward understanding whether this increase in the youth suicide rate after a decade-long decline reflects an emerging public health crisis,” the study said.
Bridge said his study cannot answer the question about whether warnings about suicide risks linked with antidepressant use caused fewer troubled teens to get treatment. Other risk factors include changes in alcohol use and access to firearms, the influence of Internet social networking sites and increases in suicide among U.S. troops, which could include some older adolescents.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide, which is the third-biggest killer of children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24.
Editing by Bill Trott