Monday, January 27, 2020

Youth Suicide Rates Higher in Areas With Greater Poverty, Study Finds

Youth suicide rates are higher in U.S. counties with elevated poverty rates, according to a study published today in JAMA Pediatrics. The association between suicide and county-level poverty was particularly prominent for suicides by firearms.

“As pediatric suicide rates in the United States continue to increase, understanding of the upstream contributors to pediatric suicide, including poverty-related factors, appears to be needed so that suicide prevention efforts can focus on the youths at highest risk,” wrote Jennifer Hoffmann, M.D., of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and colleagues.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 2007-2016 death certificate data for youth (aged five to 19) collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with income data from the National Census Bureau. They found youth suicide rates were higher in counties with greater poverty. For example, compared with counties in which less than 5% of the population lived below the federal poverty level ($21,027 in annual household income for a family of four in 2007 and $24,339 in 2016), counties with poverty rates of 20% or more had 1.37 times as many suicides by youth each year.

The researchers then analyzed the three most common methods of suicide during the study period (firearms, poisoning, and suffocation). They found no association between the rate of suicide by suffocation or poisoning and poverty levels. Among firearm suicides, the suicide rate increased with increasing levels of poverty compared with the lowest levels of poverty.

“The independent association between county poverty concentration and pediatric suicide … should prompt research into potential mediators through which poverty might convey an elevated suicide risk,” Hoffman and colleagues wrote. “On a more societal level, strategies that combat poverty, such as increasing the minimum wage, may be part of a multipronged strategy to consider for reducing youth suicide.”

To read more on this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Rise in Youth Suicide Rates Confounds Experts.”

(Image: iStock/fizkes)

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