Suicide rates among young black boys on the rise

Researchers were surprised to see increasing suicide rates among black children, especially boys.

Story highlights

  • The rate of suicide among black boys ages 5 to 11 doubled between 1993 and 2012.
  • The rate of suicide among white boys the same age has decreased
  • The trend in suicide rates appears similar among black and white girls

(CNN)The rates of suicide among African-American children have doubled in the last two decades, surpassing the rates among white children, which dropped over the same time period, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at the suicide rates among children ages 5 to 11 between 1993 and 2012. The rates overall did not change over these years, but the rates among black boys rose from 1.78 to 3.47 per 1 million. In contrast, suicides among white boys declined from 1.96 to 1.31 per million. In just the 5-year period between 2008 and 2012 there were 41 suicide deaths among black boys, and 73 among white boys.
"Suicide rates in the U.S. have historically been higher among white individuals across all age groups," said Jeffrey Bridge, epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who led the research, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. "We were very surprised to see higher suicide rates among black children over time," added Bridge, who is also associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University.
    In fact, the researchers waited for numbers from 2012 to be available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was their source of data, to have more confidence in what they were seeing. It did not change their findings.
    The suicide rates among girls, although about five times lower than those for boys, followed the same racial trend. The rates among black girls increased from 0.68 to 1.23 per 1 million, although the rise was not statistically significant. Meanwhile the rates among white girls appeared to be stable, at about 0.25 per million.
    During the first time period that the researchers studied, 1993 to 1997, suicide rates were similar for black and white boys. Suicide was the 14th and 12th leading cause of death among black and white children, respectively, over those years.
    However, rates among black boys had overtaken those for white boys by 2003. Between 2008 and 2012, suicide was the nin