The gender gap in youth suicide is smaller than previous estimates, according to a new University of Florida study that found suicide mortality rates among females ages 10 to 19 have been underestimated, while rates among males have been overestimated. The findings appear in JAMA Network Open Psychiatry.
“The reduced gender gap in suicide is a surprise,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Bin Yu, a doctoral student in epidemiology in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of Medicine. “It is really important that we not underestimate the risk of suicide among girls.”
Previous studies reported the suicide mortality rate for young males as 7.4 per 100,000 males in 1999 and 10.7 in 2017. The UF researchers’ analysis found the adjusted suicide mortality rate among males was 4.9 in 1999 and 8.7 in 2017. Among female youth, prior studies estimated the suicide mortality rate at 1.6 per 100,000 in 1999 and 3.5 in 2017. The UF team found the female youth adjusted suicide mortality rate was 1.7 in 1999 and 4.2 in 2017.
Dr. Yu and his doctoral program mentor Dr. Xinguang “Jim” Chen, a professor of epidemiology, analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research for the years 1999 to 2017.
Conventional methods for estimating annual suicide mortality rates by gender have been confounded by factors of population age and individuals’ birth year. The UF study is the first study of its kind to use age-period-cohort analysis to adjust both age and birth year from the year in which the suicides occurred. The method allows researchers to obtain the most accurate picture of suicide for youth in the United States, Dr. Yu said.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on September 20