In 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds in the US. Studies note disparities in youth suicide based on sex, race/ethnicity, and urban vs rural settings. This study investigates demographics, mental health indicators, and other circumstances surrounding youth/young adult deaths by suicide, comparing Chicago and suburban Cook County from 2005 to 2010.
Using the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS), we employed a cross-sectional design to provide descriptive analysis of decedents in three age groups (10-14, 15-19, and 20-24 years) in two geographic areas: urban (city of Chicago) and suburban (suburban Cook County) between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2010. We used chi-square testing to test for significant differences in each age group by demographics, mental health indicators, and suicide markers in each area.
Between 2005 and 2010, the IVDRS reported 299 deaths by suicide among 10-24-year-olds, 52% in Chicago, and 48% in suburban Cook County. Of these deaths, 5.7%, 33.4% and 60.9% were ages 10-14, 15-19, and 20-24 years, respectively. Non-Hispanic (NH) whites comprised 50.7% of the totals, NH Blacks 26.5%, Hispanics 16.8%, and Asians 5.7%. In Chicago, males were 84% of suicides and 62.7% in suburban Cook County among 15-19-year-olds (p < 0.05). White race was significantly different in 10-14-year-olds: 0% in Chicago, 54% in suburban Cook County (p < 0.05). Racial and ethnic differences in suicides among 15-19-year-olds in Chicago vs suburban Cook County were: NH White 22.4% vs 74.5% (p < 0.001), NH Black 46.9% vs 13.7% (p < 0.05), Hispanic 24.5% vs 7.8% (p < 0.05). There were also differences for 20-24-year-olds with NH White 43% vs 65.4% and NH Black 32% vs 13.6% (p < 0.05 for both). For mechanism of death, in 15-19-year-olds, there were differences between city and suburban in firearm deaths (42.9% vs 20%, p < 0.05) and in poisoning (0 vs 14%, p < 0.05).
Our analyses detected significant location-related differences in the characteristics of decedents within the Chicago region indicating that local data are needed to inform suicide prevention efforts so that those at most risk can be prioritized for services. IVDRS is a potent tool in identifying these variations.