Suicide by suffocation increasing among US youths, study says

Young Americans are increasingly using suffocation and hanging to commit suicide, according to government data released on Thursday.

Deaths by those means rose every year from 1994 to 2012 among females and males aged 10 to 24 year olds, for reasons that remain unclear, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unlike suicide attempts that involve poisoning, suffocation and hanging are much more likely to result in death, the researchers noted.

"A person's first attempt may be their last attempt," said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, who was not involved in the new report.

By 2012, the rate of suicide by suffocation and hanging had reached 4.5 deaths per 100,000 among young men, up from 3 per 100,000 in 1994, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The rate among young women more than tripled, to 1.7 per 100,000 in 2012 from 0.5 in 1994.

Overall suicide rates decreased among young males to 11.9 per 100,000 in 2012 from 15.7 in 1994, the CDC researchers found. Rates rose slightly among young females to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2012 from 2.7 in 1994.

Guns were the most common way young men committed suicide, at a rate of 5.9 per 100,000. Among young women, suffocation and hanging were most common, surpassing firearms in 2001. Suicide by poisoning was least common for both sexes.

While the rate of suicide by firearms fluctuated during the study period, suicide by suffocation and hanging increased steadily.

"Certain methods appeal to certain people," Caine said. "It's not true that if you prevent suicide in one method, they go to another."

The CDC researchers write that people should be aware of the increased use of more lethal suicide methods, a trend that underlines the need for early prevention strategies to keep young people from having suicidal thoughts and to identify those at risk.