More middle-school-aged kids are now dying by suicide than in car crashes

Suicide has become more deadly than car crashes for US children 10 to 14.

The suicide rate among US middle school students doubled from 2007 to 2014, surpassing for the first time the death rate among kids aged 10 to 14 from car crashes. That’s according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published Thursday.

The rise in middle school suicides, from an annual rate of 0.9 to 2.1 per 100,000 people, happened at the same time traffic deaths among the same age group declined to 1.9 per 100,000.


Since 1999, the rate of traffic deaths per 100,000 people was down almost 60%, a substantial drop compared to suicide and homicide rates. And this drop hasn’t just been observed among 10 to 14 year-olds: Mortality rates from traffic collisions among all age groups have decreased over several decades in the United States, which observers attribute in part to improved safety features in cars, such as airbags.

In aggregate numbers, 425 young people 10 to 14 years of age took their own lives in 2014, compared with 384 who perished in automobile accidents that year, according to the CDC.

Those figures contrasted sharply with figures from 1999, when the rate of middle school students killed in car crashes, was four times higher than the rate among those who died from suicide that year.

“Any rise (in youth suicides) should be of concern, there’s no doubt,” Mark Kaplan, a professor of social welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a phone interview, commenting on the findings.

Although the CDC’s numbers can show us these rates, they can’t necessarily point to a particular cause.The underlying causes of suicide are highly complex, making it difficult to explain the trends documented by the CDC, he added.

“In time we might uncover some reasons, but a cautionary note [is] not to rush to any conclusions from this,” Kaplan said.

The leading overall cause of death for Americans 10 to 14 years of age remains accidents of all kinds, including car crashes, accounting for 750 fatalities in that age group in 2014, according to the CDC.

(Reuters reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry)