Teen Homicide, Suicide and Firearm Deaths

Publication Date:

Aug 23, 2016

Key facts about teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths

  • While homicide rates for 15- to 19-year-olds declined steadily from 1990 to 2013, rates have increased in recent years, from 7 to 9 per 100,000 teens, from 2013 to 2016.
  • After declining from 11 per 100,000 in 1990 to 7 per 100,000 in 2007, suicide rates for 15- to 19-year-olds are again increasing, reaching 10 per 100,000 in 2016.
  • The proportion of teens dying from firearms increased by nearly 30 percent from 2013 to 2016, from 10 to 13 per 100,000.

Trends in teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths

From the 1970s to the early 1990s, the homicide rate for teens (ages 15 to 19) more than doubled, from 8 per 100,000 in 1970 to a peak of 20 per 100,000 in 1993. The rate declined steeply during the late 1990s, then leveled off at around 9 deaths per 100,000 from 2000 to 2004. The rate of homicides among this age group then increased, reaching 11 per 100,000 in 2006, before falling to 7 per 100,000 in 2014, the lowest rate on record. However, rates have increased again over the last few years, rising to 9 per 100,000 in 2016.

Trends in firearm-related deaths (homicides and suicides, as well as deaths from unintended injuries) have followed a similar pattern for teens ages 15 to 19, with rates declining dramatically during the late 1990s, from 28 per 100,000 population in 1994 to 13 per 100,000 in 2000. As with the homicide rate, the firearm-related death rate fluctuated slightly from 2000 to 2006, before decreasing to 10 deaths per 100,000 by 2013. In the last few years, rates have begun to climb again, reaching 13 deaths per 100,000 in 2016.

The teen suicide rate increased from 6 to 11 per 100,000 population from 1970 to 1988, remained steady until 1994, and then declined to around 7 per 100,000 in 2002. The rate remained stable from 2002 to 2008, although it has since increased to 10 per 100,000 in 2016. Suffocation suicide rates have increased significantly from 1994 to 2016 for both males and females and all racial/ethnic groups, with overall rates more than doubling over that period.[1] Suffocation, as used in suicide attempts, has a high likelihood of resulting in death[2] (Appendix 1).

Differences in teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths by gender

In 2016, males ages 15 to 19 were approximately three times more likely than females to die from suicide, (15 and 5 per 100,000 population, respectively), and five times more likely to die from homicide (14 and 3 per 100,000 population, respectively). Males in this age group are also six times more likely to die from firearm-related incidents of any kind: In 2016, 21 per 100,000 males died by firearms, compared to 3 per 100,000 females.

The disparity between males and females in homicide rates generally increased from 1970 to 2016, from a factor of four to a factor of five. The gender disparity in suicide rates peaked in 1995, when it was approximately six times as high for males as females (Appendix 1).

Differences in teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths, by race and Hispanic origin[3]

Reflecting a history of systemic racism and poverty that has had many negative effects on their communities, black and Hispanic teens are much more likely than white teens to be exposed to violence, including fatal violence.[4],[5] In 2016, the homicide rate for black male teens was 57 per 100,000 population, almost 20 times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white male teens (3 per 100,000). Rates for other groups were 13 per 100,000 for Hispanic males, 8* per 100,000 for American Indian males, and 3 per 100,000 for Asian or Pacific Islander males.

Among females, black, American Indian, and Hispanic teens had the highest homicide rates in 2016, at 8, 3,* and 2 per 100,000, respectively, followed by 1 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic white and Asian or Pacific Islander females.

Firearm deaths—which represent a majority of teen homicides and suicides, but also include accidental deaths—were highest in 2016 among black teens (61 per 100,000 males, and 8 per 100,000 females), and lowest among Asian or Pacific Islander teens (6 per 100,000 males, and 2* per 100,000 females). American Indian and Hispanic teens had the second-highest rates overall (19 and 15 per 100,000 males, and 2* and 3 per 100,000 females, respectively). Non-Hispanic white teens had the second-lowest rate among males (13 per 100,000), and the second-highest rate among females (3 per 100,000).

In 2016, rates of suicide among males were highest among American Indian teens (23 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic white teens (18 per 100,000), followed by Asian or Pacific Islander teens at 13, Hispanic teens at 10, and black teens at 8 per 100,000. Among females, American Indian teens had the highest rate at 9 per 100,000, followed by non-Hispanic white teens at 6, Asian or Pacific Islander teens at 5, and Hispanic and black teens at 4 per 100,000 (Appendix 1).

*Note: These estimates should be interpreted with caution, as they are based on 20 or fewer deaths and may be unstable.

Other estimates

State and local estimates

1990–2015 state rates for combined accident, homicide, and suicide are available from the KIDS COUNT Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/24-teen-deaths-by-accident-homicide-and-suicide?loc=1&loct=2.

Data for homicides by age group for all states and select counties are available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics at http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline/Search/Homicide/Homicide.cfm.

International estimates

Estimates of homicide rates by country and age group are available from the World Health Organization’s Violence Information initiative and can be found at http://apps.who.int/violence-info/.

Global suicide rates for youth ages 15 to 19 are available from the World Health Organization’s Cause of Death Query online database at http://apps.who.int/healthinfo/statistics/mortality/causeofdeath_query/start.php.

2000–2015 estimates of death rates from self-harm and interpersonal violence for ages 15 to 29 are available from the World Health Organization at http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/estimates/en/index1.html.

Data and appendices

Data sources

  • Data for 1981–2016: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1982–2017). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Data tool]. Retrieved from https://wisqars-viz.cdc.gov/.
  • Data overall and by gender for 1970 and 1980: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). Health, United States, 2002: Chartbook on trends in the health of Americans [Tables 46, 47, and 48]. Hyattsville, MD. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus02cht.pdf.
  • Race/ethnicity data for 1970 and 1980: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. (2001). Trends in the well-being of America’s children and youth, 2001 [Tables HC 3.4A and 3.5]. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/trends-well-being-americas-children-and-youth-2001.

Raw data source

National Vital Statistics System


Appendix 1. Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm Rates (per 100,000 population) Among Youth Ages 15–19: Selected Years 1970–2016



Homicide, suicide, and firearm-related deaths are determined by physician, medical examiner, and coroner reports, as recorded on death certificates. Deaths are classified using ICD-10 codes. For more information on ICD-10 classification, see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/icd10fct.pdf.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Data Tool]. Retrieved from https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate.html.

[2] Sullivan, E. M., Annest, J. L., Simon, T. R., Luo, F., & Dahlberg, L. L. (2015). Suicide trends among persons aged 10–24 years—United States, 1994–2012. MMWR, 64(8), 201–205.

[3] Hispanic youth may be of any race. Estimates for white youth in this report do not include Hispanic youth.

[4] Slopen, N., Shonkoff, J. P., & Albert, M. A. (2016). Racial disparities in child adversity in the U.S.: Interactions with family immigration history and income. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 50(1), 47–56.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). QuickStats: Age-adjusted rates for homicides, by race/ethnicity— United States, 1999–2015. MMWR, 66(31), 839. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6631a9.htm.