New York: Researchers have revealed that adolescents living in poverty may be at greater risk of suicide, particularly by firearms. According to the study, suicide in children under age 20 has been increasing in the US, with rates almost doubling over the last decade. Between 2007 to 2016, nearly 21,000 children ages 5-19 years old died by suicide. The findings published show a link between poverty and suicide in children and teens.
“The results were consistent in a step-wise fashion, as poverty increased, so did the rate of suicide,” said study researchers Lois Lee, from Boston Children’s Hospital in the US. For the results, the researchers grouped the number of suicides into five levels of poverty at the county level ranging from a low of 0-4.9% to greater than 20%. They learned that the rate of suicides in children and adolescents is 37% higher in counties with the highest levels of poverty — where more than 20% of the population in the county lives below the federal poverty level — compared with suicide rates in the lowest levels of poverty.
In this study, researchers collected information from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Compressed Mortality File, which includes data on all US deaths, including cause of death. After searching for deaths by suicide, method of suicide, and county where the suicide occurred from 2007-2016, they paired that data with county-level poverty rates from US Census data and poverty estimates from the US Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Programme.
The findings from this study are similar to research from the CDC that found increases in suicide in youth and young adults ages 10-24 between 2000-2017.The research also revealed an increased suicide rate from firearms in the more impoverished counties compared to the least.
According to the study, the researchers have seen a rise in the number of children and teens with mental health issues, including suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide, seeking care in the emergency department (ED). The study authors reported that children living in poverty are likely to be exposed to more family turmoil, violence, social isolation, and lack of positive peer-to-peer relationships and may be more likely to have emotional difficulties like depression and anxiety.
Further, areas of concentrated poverty may lack infrastructure such as quality schools, sustainable jobs, health care facilities, and mental health resources supporting good health for adults and children, they added.