New Study by Prof. Hahm Reveals Unexpected Findings Behind Youth Suicide Increase During COVID-19

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Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young people in the United States. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the impact of the pandemic on youth suicide was unclear, but new research shows that suicide deaths among young people did increase substantially when COVID-19 took root in the U.S. in March 2020.

In a recent study co-authored by Hyeouk Chris Hahm, PhD, LCSW, a professor and associate dean for research at Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW), researchers analyzed national suicide data for youth ages 5-24, comparing data from 2015-2020 to data collected in the first ten months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to finding an increase in the total number of youth suicide deaths, the researchers identified several unexpected findings, including that:

  • The largest discrepancy in expected-to-actual suicide deaths during this period was among Asian/Pacific Islander females;
  • Suicide deaths increased in white children ages 5-12; and
  • Females experienced greater than expected suicide deaths by firearms.

The researchers stress that the discrepancies between demographic subgroups highlight a critical need for prevention strategies that address developmental and racial/ethnic disparities among the youth groups that are at increased risk of suicide.

According to Professor Hahm, a leading expert in youth mental health, “We need to invest more money and resources to understand what makes our young people choose to die by suicide, and come up with effective plans to give hope and build healthy social structures that help them thrive and find a purpose in life.”

The study was published in the March 2023 issue of Pediatrics, the flagship journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition to Professor Hahm, authors of the study include Jeffrey A. Bridge, PhD; Donna A. Ruch, PhD; Arielle H. Sheftall, PhD; Victoria M. O’Keefe, PhD; Cynthia A. Fontanella, PhD; Guy Brock, PhD; John V. Campo, MD; and Lisa M. Horowitz, PhD, MPH.

Learn More About Prof. Hahm’s Research