Suicide attempts by teen girls spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the adolescent girls aged 12-17 years, the average weekly visits to the emergency department for suspected suicide attempts from February 2021 to March 2021 was 50.6% higher than the same period the year before, according to the CDC analysis. Boys were far less likely to show suicidal tendencies during the same time period; the number of emergency department visits for suicide attempts rose by 3.7% for males.
"In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, ED visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among adolescents aged 12–17 years, especially girls," the CDC study found.
From late July to late August 2020, the average weekly number of emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among 12- to 17-year-old girls increased by 26.2% from the same time period the prior year.
"The study likely underrepresents the real number of suspected suicide attempts because Americans were hesitant to go to hospitals during the pandemic, in fear of contracting COVID-19," according to CNBC. "In spring 2020, there was a 16.8% drop in emergency department visits among men and women aged 18 to 24 compared with the same time period a year prior."
The study theorized that the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been toxic to the mental health of young people.
"Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including a lack of connectedness to schools, teachers, and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems, which are all risk factors for suicide," the CDC study said.
The CDC suggested that parents spending more time with children at home because of lockdowns may have tipped off adults to suicidal thoughts and behaviors of their children.
"The findings from this study suggest more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic, reinforcing the need for increased attention to, and prevention for, this population," the CDC said of the significant difference of suicide attempts by boys and girls.
States began implementing stay-at-home orders in March 2020, and by the end of March, 32 out of 50 states had locked down.
The CDC noted that the increase in suicide attempts did not equate to more deaths. The suicide rate among young persons aged 15-24 from the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2020 "saw no significant change."
Earlier studies also found an alarming increase in suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic. A poll conducted in June 2020 by the CDC found that 25.5% of Americans ages 18 and 24 reported "having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey."
In January 2021, a rash of suicides forced Las Vegas schools to reopen partially.
In Japan, suicides were up nearly 40% in October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Suicides by Japanese women spiked by 82.6% in October, compared to a 21.3% increase in suicides by men.
Drug overdose deaths in the United States surged during the coronavirus pandemic, reaching the highest totals since the opioid epidemic began, according to the CDC.