The homicide rate for older U.S. teenagers rose to its highest point in nearly 25 years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the suicide rate for adults in their early 20s was the worst in more than 50 years, government researchers said Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report examined the homicide and suicide rates among 10- to 24-year-olds from 2001 to 2021.
The increase is alarming and “reflects a mental health crisis among young people and a need for a number of policy changes,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher who studies U.S. death trends and wasn’t involved in the CDC report.
Suicide and homicide were the second and third leading causes of death for 10- to 24-year-olds, after a category of accidental deaths that includes motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings and overdoses. Other researchers have grouped the data by the method of death, and concluded that guns are now the biggest killer of U.S. children.
Earlier this year, Woolf and other researchers looking at CDC data noted dramatic increases in child and adolescent death rates overall at the beginning of the pandemic, and found suicide and homicide were important factors.
The report also found:
—The homicide death rate jumped from 8.9 deaths per 100,000 teens aged 15 to 19 in 2019 to 12.3 in 2020. It rose to 12.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2021, the highest since 1997, according to CDC data.
—Homicide deaths became more common than suicide deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds, while suicide was more common in the younger and older age groups.
—While large increases were seen in homicide rates for young Black and Hispanic people in the U.S., there were not significant increases for their white counterparts, other CDC data shows.
“There is a misperception that if you talk to young people about depression, they’ll get depressed. A don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy for depression is not effective,” Trivedi said. “The earlier we can identify the ones who need help, the better chance we’ll have at saving lives.”