Teen Homicide, Suicide and Firearm Deaths

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Trends in teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths

From the 1970s to the early 1990s, homicide rates for teens (ages 15 to 19) more than doubled, from 8.1 per 100,000 in 1970 to a peak of 20.3 per 100,000 in 1993. Homicides declined steeply during the late 1990s, then leveled off at around 9 deaths per 100,000 from 2000 to 2004. Rates among this age group then increased, reaching 10.5 per 100,000 in 2006, before falling to 6.6 in 2014, the lowest rate on record. Over the last few years, however, rates have increased again, rising to 8.7 per 100,000 in 2017.

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 27.8 per 100,000 population in 1994 to 11.9 in 2003. As with homicide rates, the firearm-related death rate fluctuated slightly from 2003 to 2006, before decreasing to 9.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013, the lowest rate on record. In the last few years, rates have begun to climb again, reaching 13.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.

Teen suicide rates increased from 5.9 to 11.1 per 100,000 population from 1970 to 1988, remained steady until 1994, and then declined to around 7 per 100,000 in 2002. The rates remained stable from 2002 to 2008, although they have since increased to 11.8 per 100,000 in 2017—a record high. Suicides due to suffocation have increased significantly from 1994 to 2017 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 2017, males ages 15 to 19 were more than three times more likely than females to die from suicide, (17.9 and 5.4 per 100,000 population, respectively), and six times more likely to die from homicide (14.7 and 2.4 per 100,000 population, respectively). Males in this age group were also more than seven times more likely to die from firearm-related incidents of any kind: 23.9 per 100,000 males, versus 3.2 per 100,000 females.

The disparity in homicide rates between males and females generally increased from 1970 to 2017, with a peak in 1994. Similarly, gender disparity in suicide rates peaked in 1994, when males were approximately five times more likely than their female peers to commit suicide (Appendix 1).

Differences in teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths, by race and Hispanic origin*

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.[3],[4] In 2017, the homicide rate for black male teens was 58.9 per 100,000 population, almost 16 times higher than the rate among non-Hispanic white male teens. Rates for males in other groups were 12.8 per 100,000 for Hispanics, 12.0 per 100,000 for American Indians, and 2.9** per 100,000 for Asian or Pacific Islanders.

Among females, black and Hispanic teens had the highest homicide rates in 2017, at 6.8 and 2.6 per 100,000, respectively, followed by 1.1 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic white and American Indians, and 0.6* for Asian or Pacific Islanders (Appendix 1).

Firearm deaths—which account for the majority of teen homicides and suicides, but also include accidental deaths—were highest in 2017 among black teens (64.5 per 100,000 males, and 7.0 per 100,000 females), and lowest among Asian or Pacific Islander teens (5.9 per 100,000 males, and 1.2* per 100,000 females).

In 2017, rates of suicide among male teens were highest among American Indians (28.8 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic whites (22.0 per 100,000), followed by Hispanics (12.5), Asian or Pacific Islanders (11.6), and blacks (11.1). Among females, American Indian teens had the highest rate at 10.2** per 100,000, followed by non-Hispanic white teens at 5.8, and Asian or Pacific Islander teens at 5.2 (Appendix 1).

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

**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

1990–2016 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.

2000–2016 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 2017: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2017 on CDC WONDER [Data tool]. Retrieved from: http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html.
  • Data for 1981–2017: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1982–2017). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Data tool]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/.
  • 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 1970–2017

Appendix 2: Percentage of children ages 0-18 who spent time in a shelter, by various characteristics, 2005-2017



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. (2018). 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] 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.

[4] 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.


Child Trends. (2019). Teen Homicide, Suicide and Firearm Deaths. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/teen-homicide-suicide-and-firearm-deaths.