Ethnic Differences in Adolescent Suicide in the United States

Int J Child Health Hum Dev. 2008 Jan 1;1(3):281-296.


Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for adolescents between 15 and 24 years of age in the United States and its rate has been increasing. Factors that contribute to rate of, risks for, or protection against depression and suicide may be different for people from cultures with different values and health beliefs. Although typically seen as affecting Caucasians more than other groups in the U.S., the rates of suicide among African Americans, Latinos, and others have been increasing. 87 studies were reviewed looking at rates for suicide/suicidal ideation, risk factors for suicide, protective factors/coping mechanisms, service delivery/barriers to care, and specific treatment or management of suicidal thoughts for adolescents from different ethnic groups in the U.S. The following ethnic groups in the U.S. were compared: African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American/Alaskan Native, and Hawaiian American. Although studies report conflicting rates, most studies still show an overall higher risk for suicidal behavior among Caucasian youth than any other group. Rates for suicidal behavior are growing for African American teens (perhaps more in boys), Latino teens (especially Latina girls), Asian American youth, Native American youth, Alaskan Native youth, and Hawaiian American youth. Details about these differences are discussed along with recommendations for clinicians working with youth at risk for suicide from minority cultures in the U.S.