The percentage of teenage girls considering and attempting suicide rose in 2021, a sign of declining mental health during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 30 percent of female students in grades 9-12 seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, up from 24.1 percent in 2019. The amount of teen girls who made a plan for suicide also rose from 19.9 to 23.6 percent, and the percentage who attempted suicide rose from 11 to 13.3 percent.
The CDC conducts this survey every two years to poll young people on questions about topics such as sexual activity, substance use and mental health.
The survey is based on data from 13,677 students from across the country in 2019 and 17,232 students in 2021. A preliminary release of the survey’s results showed in February that youth mental health had worsened in 2021, with about 30 percent of respondents saying they had poor mental health and more than 40 percent saying they had “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” in the past year.
The respondents were asked if in the past 12 months they had seriously considered or planned for suicide and how many times in the past 12 months they attempted suicide. They were also asked if their attempt resulted in any injury, poisoning or overdose that needed medical treatment.
Researchers found that the statistics for male students for those questions remained mostly stable from 2019 to 2021. The percentage of teen males who considered suicide rose slightly from 13.3 to 14.3 percent, the percentage who made a plan rose from 11.3 to 11.6 percent and the percentage who attempted suicide was unchanged.
The percentage of female students in grades 9-11 who seriously considered suicide was significantly higher than the percentage in 12th grade who did so. Those in grades 9 and 10 were much more likely than 12th-graders to make a plan and attempt suicide, according to the data.
Researchers also found a slight increase in the number of female suicide attempts that required medical attention, rising from 3.3 percent in 2019 to 3.9 percent in 2021.
They concluded that their findings are consistent with trends of rising rates of suicide risk among females and demonstrate the effect the COVID-19 measures might have had on social isolation and anxiety.
The study states that suicide is the third-leading cause of death in high schoolers ages 14 to 18 and is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall.