COLUMBUS, Ohio — The suicide rate for children under the age of 13 is relatively low compared to other age groups, but the disparity between black children and white children is huge, new research shows.
According to a study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, African-American kids between ages 5 and 12 are twice as likely to commit suicide than white children in the same age group.
The results, which examined statistics between 2001 and 2015, were surprising in part because the suicide rate among all white people in the U.S. is higher than black people or any other racial minority.
“Our findings provide further evidence of a significant age-related racial disparity in childhood suicide rates and rebut the long-held perception that suicide rates are uniformly higher in whites than blacks in the United States,” explains study lead author Jeff Bridge, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, in a statement. “The large age-related racial difference in suicide rates did not change during the study period, suggesting that this disparity is not explained by recent events such as the economic recession.”
For young people beyond the age of 13, the suicide trends reverse back to the national trends. Black children between ages 13 and 17 are 50% less likely to commit suicide than white children, the study shows.
In total, there were 1,661 deaths from suicide for black children during the study period, versus 13,341 suicides among white youths. The overall suicide rate was about 42% lower for black children — 1.26 per 100,000 compared to 2.16 per 100,000 for white youths.
“It is also important to note that the homicide rate for black youths aged 13-17 is between five to seven times greater than for white youths and may indeed be a competing risk for suicide in this age group,” says Joel Greenhouse, a co-author of the study and professor of statistics and data science at Carnegie Mellon. “This is a question that we are continuing to investigate.”
The researchers compiled data from the web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The full study was published in the July 2018 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association: Pediatrics.