Despite ongoing and concerted efforts from major public health bodies, the suicide rate in the United States is still on the up. According to the latest figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), things have taken a worrying step backward with the highest recorded annual suicide rates in around 30 years.
Even more alarmingly, suicide rates among young girls have skyrocketed by approximately 300%. Once again, the finger of blame has been pointed at least in-part at social media.
The CDC’s National Vital Statistics Report suggests that from 1999 to 2014, the annual suicide rate increased by almost a quarter (24%). In 1999, it was reported that 10 in every 100,000 people took their own lives – this had increased to 13 per 100,000 by 2014.
There have been no real signs of improvement for any year during the study period, with the CDC having confirmed that both male and female suicide rates are accelerating.
“The rate of suicide has gone up nearly steadily since 1999,” reported Sally Curtin, senior study author and a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC.
“It’s a broad picture for both females and males. The suicide rate was higher in 2014 than in 1999 for all age groups under 75 years.”
Among males, the biggest spike in suicide rates was found to be among those aged 40- to 64-years-old. One of the study’s most troubling findings of all however was that of a three-fold increase in the number of 10- to 14-year-old girls taking their own lives. The total annual suicide rate among young girls remains low, but between 1999 and 2014 nonetheless increased by around 300% to 150 deaths.
The researchers noted that if attempted suicides were included, the figures in all instances would be much higher.
“For this sub-population, these suicides that end in death are just the tip of the iceberg,” Curtin added.
“For every suicide, we know there are many, many attempts and hospitalizations.”
Dr. Maria Oquendo of the American Psychiatric Association admitted that there are still many unanswered questions as to why the suicide rate is spiraling out of control.
“One of the most salient things the study illustrates is that despite our aggressive efforts to decrease suicide rates, we really haven’t been successful,” she said in an interview with CBS.
“It’s really not clear why it keeps going up.”
In terms of the alarming increase among younger female suicides, experts believe that earlier onset of puberty could be having an impact on the psychological health of young girls.
“With puberty starting earlier and earlier, it’s possible some of these kids are experiencing psychiatric conditions earlier,” Oquendo added.
“It’s rare for suicide to occur in the absence of a psychiatric condition.”
In addition, the possible link between social media use and harmful effects on psychological health was noted by the researchers.
“Things are happening online, unmonitored, and untoward things could be going on and having adverse effects on kids,” said Oquendo.
Dr. Jane Pearson of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Suicide Research Consortium spoke of great advances being made in treatment methods, though acknowledge the challenge of putting them to use effectively.
“We have more and more effective treatments, but we have to figure out how to bake them into health care systems so they are used more automatically,” she stated.
“We’ve got bits and pieces, but we haven’t really put them all together yet.”