Female Adolescent Suicide Rates Are Increasing According to UF Study

A recent update to a University of Florida study shows that youth suicide rates for female adolescents are increasing.

Bin Yu, a 30-year-old UF fourth-year doctoral student majoring in epidemiology, became a leader in this study in May when he began his report. According to Yu, this study focuses on adolescents ages 10 to 19 and divides the data between males and females.

According to the previous studies conducted by UF researchers in the public health department, the suicide mortality rate for female adolescents was estimated to rise from 1.6% in 1999 to 3.5% in 2017, and for male adolescents it was estimated as 7.4% in 1999 and 10.7% in 2017.

However, the UF study recently adjusted the mortality rate to be 1.7% in 1999 to 4.2% in 2017 for female adolescents and 4.9% in 1999 to 8.7% in 2017 for male adolescents.

Yu was inspired to continue with this study because of the decrease in life expectancy for the past three years. Along with this, he said he was shocked to see how many people have known someone who committed suicide.

“I was a teacher’s assistant and gave a lecture in class one day,” Yu said. “When I asked how many people knew somebody who had committed suicide, and I estimated 80% of the people in the room raised their hands.”

Yu worked closely with epidemiology professor Xinguang “Jim” Chen to receive guidance throughout his research. According to Chen, Yu would analyze the public data he would receive for total suicides within adolescents occurring in each state, by age and by gender, and then discuss it with him.

“My theory of suicide is because of the social structure,” Chen said. “They lose self-esteem and confidence while looking for someone else’s validation, and it leads to suicide.”

Yu said that the most common cause of death by suicide is through firearms, which takes up more than half of the suicides. He said that hanging and overdose take up the rest of the percentage.   

Yu believes that a reason for increased suicide rate in female adolescents is because of the exposure to the internet, social media, games and substance abuse as they grow up.

“The iGen [people who grew up exposed to internet] has the highest risk of experiencing suicide,” Yu said.

Yu said that there needs to be more research in this subject. He hopes that his contribution to this research will allow for future collaboration with families, schoolteachers, mental hospitals and community workers to get together to create a prevention program.

“They [adolescents] are the generation of the future of our nation,” Yu said. “They have a very bright future. We need to do a lot of work to make them feel happy and less likely to feel a lot of burden and suffering.”