CDC Reports Spike in Teen Suicide By Suffocation

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CDC Reports Spike in Teen Suicide By Suffocation

*The following is excerpted from an online article from

Young people in the U.S. are increasingly using suffocation -- including hanging -- to commit suicide, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Published in the March 6 issue of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the study found that among 10- to 24-year-olds, suicide rates by suffocation increased, on average, by 6.7 percent for females and 2.2 percent for males between 1994 and 2012.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24. According to the MMWR, 5,178 people in this age group committed suicide in 2012. Using information gathered from the National Vital Statistics System mortality data for the period 1994 to 2012, the study analyzed suicide trends by sex, age group, and race or ethnicity, region of residence and method of suicide.

Findings showed that firearms, poisoning (including drug overdoses) and suffocation or hanging were the most common methods of suicide in the U.S. Overall, the research showed suicide rates for persons aged 10 years to 24 years were higher for males than for females.

Among males aged 10 to 24 years of age, firearms were the leading suicide method. In females of the same age, suffocation has outpaced firearms since 2001 as the leading method of suicide. In general, suffocation rates increased, firearm rates decreased, and poisoning rates decreased slightly over the course of the 18 years included in the study.

That suicide by suffocation or hanging is on the rise is a pressing concern because these attempts are more likely to result in death. The CDC reports that suicide by suffocation or hanging succeeds 69 percent to 84 percent of the time. By comparison, the rate of success for firearms and poisoning are 81 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

The cause of this worrisome trend is not clear, though the report does indicate that media coverage of high-profile cases of suicide may inadvertently contribute to "suicide contagion," a kind of copycat behavior where one suicide triggers others. The authors cite at least 50 studies worldwide that have shown that prominent or sensational coverage of suicide increases the odds that people already at risk will take their own lives.

The CDC report highlighted the need for early prevention strategies to reduce the number of young people attempting suicide.