Importance: Suicide is a leading cause of death among school-aged children younger than 12 years but little is known about the epidemiology of suicide in this age group.
Objective: To describe trends in suicide among US children younger than 12 years by sociodemographic group and method of death.
Design, setting, and participants: Period trend analysis of national mortality data on suicide in children aged 5 to 11 years in the United States from January 1, 1993, to December 31, 2012. Data were analyzed per 5-year periods, between 1993 to 1997 and 2008 to 2012.
Main outcomes and measures: Number of suicide deaths and crude suicide rates. Period trends in rates of suicide were estimated using negative binomial regression incidence rate ratios (IRRs).
Results: The overall suicide rate among children aged 5 to 11 years remained stable between 1993 to 1997 and 2008 to 2012 (from 1.18 to 1.09 per 1 million; IRR = 0.96; 95% CI, 0.90-1.03). However, the suicide rate increased significantly in black children (from 1.36 to 2.54 per 1 million; IRR = 1.27; 95% CI, 1.11-1.45) and decreased in white children (from 1.14 to 0.77 per 1 million; IRR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.79-0.94). The overall firearm suicide rate (IRR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.57-0.85) and firearm suicide rate among white boys (IRR = 0.72; 95% CI, 0.59-0.88) decreased significantly during the study. The rate of suicide by hanging/suffocation increased significantly in black boys (IRR = 1.35; 95% CI, 1.14-1.61), although the overall change in suicide rates by hanging/suffocation or other suicide methods did not change during the study.
Conclusions and relevance: The stable overall suicide rate in school-aged children in the United States during 20 years of study obscured a significant increase in suicide incidence in black children and a significant decrease in suicide incidence among white children. Findings highlight a potential racial disparity that warrants attention. Further studies are needed to monitor these emerging trends and identify risk, protective, and precipitating factors relevant to suicide prevention efforts in children younger than 12 years.