Violent Deaths of Teens - Alarming Numbers from the CDC

Imagine: what if New York's Twin Towers had been filled with teens 15-19 years old? And what if they fell not once, but every year?

That horrific scenario -- minus the World Trade Center -- may be happening already.

According to new numbers from 2006 put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 8.4 teens of every 100,000 died of homicide, and 6.9 out of every 100,000 committed suicide.
What does that actually mean? Let's extrapolate. estimates that the 2007 population of teens 15-19 was 21,473,690. Divide by 100,000, and you get approximately 214.74 -- multiply the rates-per-100,000 for homicide and suicide, and we see some big numbers for the nation. 
Homicide Victims, Youth 15-19 - 8.4 x 214.74 = 1,804 teens
Suicide Victims, Youth 15-19 - 6.9 x 214.74 = 1,482 teens
If this extrapolation is accurate, then homicides and suicides kill about 3,285 teens 15-19 in the United States in a given year. That's more people than were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Yet how much have we spent on teens -- or on prevention programs -- to bring these numbers down?
Any statistician worth her salt will object that it's not fair to generalize this way, as the CDC's numbers come from a new, national database on violent death that the CDC has been building since 2003, called the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). Only 16 states currently take part in it, so we don't know for certain that these homicide and suicide rates are representative of rates for all 50 states, or consistent from year to year. But there's no question these numbers are alarming.
And the CDC numbers contain more disquieting news, as well:

  • Homicide is the second leading cause of death for persons aged 15–24 years, the third leading cause for persons aged 25–34 years, and the fourth for persons aged 1–14 years.
  • Males are more likely to be victims of homicide than females, as are non-Hispanic blacks comapred with mem­bers of other racial/ethnic populations.
  • Homicide rates among non-Hispanic blacks aged 10-24, in fact, are 4-7 times as great as those of other racial/ethnic populations.
  • Substance abuse, especially alcohol, was an "important contributing factor in cases of homicide and suicide."

But don't take my word for it: check out the data yourself. (If you're really interested, you can find more violence and injury statistics at WISQARS [Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System.]) I think you'll agree that a more aggressive public health approach to address teen homicides and suicides is overdue.
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Updated: April 08 2009