The Blog with the Search Engine for Statistics

Friday, August 19, 2011

Statistics on College Student Suicides and 2007 Suicide Stats

Suicide. Fortunately, what prompted me to write this post is not a family suicide, nor the fact that I haven't written on this blog in a couple years, but rather my daughter's venting about her suicide training during Resident Assistant training at college. (We were laughing at instances of being trained to do the obvious. For instance, call 911 if you see someone unconscious on the floor. Really? And I thought they were supposed to hide the body under the bed.)

Suicide training started with the 2004 Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act which is again facing Congress. This is the government's attempt to to support and enhance suicide prevention efforts in colleges and universities. We all know how the government works. Hence, the increase in suicides. Northwest Missouri University has an older paper addressing suicide training, and it's worth reading if you're delving into suicide research.

Regardless of our jokes about suicide training and training programs in general, my daughter and I have both known people who have tried to kill themselves, and we've known people who have committed suicide. I was going to do a post on suicide statistics - way too much information. Thought I'd narrow down the topic to suicide statistics in the US and then do another post about international statistics. Way too much information. Seeing as I had one son graduate from college this year, another daughter start college this year, and my daughter who was suicidal about her suicide training is a junior this year, it's appropriate to narrow it down to suicide and college kids, or teens, or whatever this evolves into.

If you need quick International Statistics, the 2011 US Census Report has 2006 suicide statistics on this pdf file - Korea and Hungary have the highest rates (much higher for men in both countries), and Greece has the lowest. In the US, more women commit suicide than men, and statistically speaking the US is somewhere in the middle. (Technical huh?) There's a multitude of more indepth statistics out there - you can use the search engine on my blog to search World Health Organization and all those great places. Everyone else can continue reading.

Back to the US. The (one of many) Official 2007 Statistics on Mortality is on the National Vital Statistics Report of 2007, Volume 58, Number 19. If you're looking for any statistics on death, this report is a good place to look. Suicide is listed as the 11th most common cause of death. (Technically, it's "intentional self-harm" - although I've read that intentional self-harm without death is technically not considered a suicide attempt. Wonder if the Emo generation changed that.)

Here's an interesting statistic - according to the above report, there are more suicides then there are murders. Homicide comes in at number 15. That does surprise me. When you bring race into the death rates, it turns out that blacks are far more likely to die from homicide, but whites are far more likely than blacks to die from suicide (If you're white, your chance of dying from suicide is twice as high as it would be if you were black.)

So what about guns? Here's what the report says:

Firearm suicide at 55.6 percent and homicide at 40.5 percent were the two major component causes of all firearm injury deaths in 2007.

Do you think it would be harder to pull the trigger on your own brain or someone else's?

Another fact to consider: suicide rates went up (3.7%), but deaths due to heart disease and cancer went down. Total deaths in the US were lower in 2007 then they were in 2006. All those statistics are in that Vital Statistics report above.

From the report:

The death rate for suicide has decreased slightly from a high of 13.7 deaths per 100,000 standard population in 1977 to a low of 10.4 in 2000.

Since 2000, the age adjusted death rate for suicide has increased by 8.7 percent [emphasis added].

Well that's not good. Gee, in 1999 the Surgeon General said there was a problem. In 2000 it was at it's lowest, but rose every year thereafter. In 2004 the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was first passed. The suicide rate keeps rising. In fact, the suicide rate was the highest during the years that the government started getting involved in training. Funny how it was going down before the government got involved.

There is an interesting article from BioMed Central that questions the correlation and classifications of suicide and accidental poisoning. Their conclusion?

The official decline in the suicide rate between 1987 and 2000 may have been a partial artifact of misclassification of non-elderly suicides within unintentional poisoning mortality. We recommend in-depth national, regional, and local population-based research investigations of the poisoning-suicide nexus, and endorse calls for widening the scope of the definition of suicide and evaluation of its risk factors.

The above referred to paper includes interesting charts and trends, and it was just published in late 2010. Definitely worth reading if you're interested in statistics on suicide trends.

Personally I'd be looking up statistics on the increase in homework and suicide rates. (Okay, I admit it's not as simple as that - luckily.) But negative moods do create suicide tendencies. And it would be stating the obvious if I said happy people are less likely to commit suicide. Unfortunately, our genetics and serotonin levels and a multitude of other factors scientists are just learning about influence our lives and minds. Moods come in swings. (Ask any teenager or pregnant woman and they'll confirm that for you.) And apparently so do happiness levels in cities. The government's Healthfinder found that the states and nations that had the higher happiness levels, also had the higher suicide rates. The USA Today has an easy-reading list of state suicide rates from lowest to highest. Highest rate? Alaska. Lowest? Washington D.C.

If you like trends, the U.S. Vital Statistics has suicide trends from 1985 to 2004 depicted in several graphs in their Trends in Rates and Methods in Suicide. However they make the argument that due to interpretations of statistics, suicide rates have actually been declining up to 2004. One interesting fact they point out for 20-24 year olds (college students), is that firearms deaths have been decreasing, whereas suffocation has been increasing. If you start reading the 2007 report and these trend charts, you might come up with conflicting information. Have fun with that.

If you want to look at earlier statistics on suicides, this CDC sheet is from 2007 and lists suicide trends for Youths and Young Adults Aged 10-24 from 1990 to 2004. This report also addresses the change firearm related suicides and hanging/suffocation suicides. It's rather shocking how much hanging increased! From their suicide trend report:

In 2004, hanging/suffocation was the most common method among females in all three age groups, accounting for 71.4% of suicides in the group aged 10--14 years, 49% in the group aged 15--19 years, and 34.2% in the group aged 20--24 years.

In addition, from 2003 to 2004, hanging/suffocation suicide rates among females aged 10--14 and 15--19 years increased by 119.4% (from 0.31 to 0.68 per 100,000 persons) and 43.5% (from 1.24 to 1.78), respectively [emphasis added].

The report also mentions that a choking game was popular at the time.

Eerie to think about all these young people hanging themselves. But not unbelievable. My girls went to school with a couple kids that hung themselves during high school (not from playing a choking game). They also had a close friend who came home to find their dad hanging, still alive, in the garage from a botched suicide attempt. I have a neighbor who had a daughter who hung herself in her bedroom closet. These statistics aren't imaginary. And they are most likely under-reported. (The whole topic of under-reported suicide statistics could fill volumes of books - or should I say millions of Google pages.)

Much of the information reported in US Vital Statistics (and elsewhere on the web) is derived from reports by the Inventory of National Injury Data Systems. You'll find information on types of suicides, mortality, health, car accidents and anything related to health and injury somewhere in their links. They work with the Center for Disease Control and vice-versa on WISQARS, the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, definitely worth visiting.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a suicide statistics fact sheet. And another page they have on suicide statistics is a chart showing breakdown by age. I tried posting the chart, but it's not aligning. It's easy enough for you to click the link to the chart or copy and paste the chart off that link if you need it. Interesting fact: teens and college student suicides are declining, but 30+ are increasing. So maybe there is something to the government training...


If you can't gather enough statistics about suicides and college students from the above links and from in this blog's statistic search engine, you can extract some statistics from these links:

Harvard Crimson 2009 article talks about college students and contemplating suicide.

MIT Year 2000 college suicide and national tends.

Some Harvard Stats on guns, homicide and suicide.

I'm linking you to an outdated page at the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) but there's organizations listed on the bottom that could be useful as well. And of course the National Institute of Mental Health will have zillions of statistics.

The Children's Trend Data Bank is a new website to me, and they have a post on teens, homicides, suicides and guns.

And here's an article on college students exhibiting more mental illness.

And of course, search results from the search engine on my blog has a lot more links on suicide statistics about young adults, so you can start contemplating all the contrary missing information that is out there about suicide and suicide data.

At another CDC Prevention Fact Sheet, we find the sobering statistic that:

Among young adults ages 15 to 24 years old, there are approximately 100-200 attempts for every completed suicide.

Although that's sad, we can look at it as every 100 to 200 young adults get another chance at life. Next time depression hits, perhaps they'll take their chance at life, instead of taking their life. I think it's our job to show them there is value in life.


Hemangi Goswami October 11, 2013 at 6:45 AM  

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