Suffocation has now become the most common suicide mechanism among females aged 10-24 years.
On average, suicide rates by suffocation increased between 1994 and 2012 by 6.7% each year for females and 2.2% for males. The authors of the report found that these increases occurred regardless of age, race, ethnicity and geographic location.
Increases in the rate of suffocation are particularly concerning as suffocation is highly lethal as a suicide mechanism in comparison with other common mechanisms such as firearms and poisoning.
The suffocation lethality rate is, on average, 69-84%. In contrast, evidence from 2010 indicates that firearms and poisoning had lethality rates of 81% and 2% respectively."Practitioners should be aware of the increased use and high lethality of suffocation as a suicide method so they can accurately assess risk and educate families about reducing access to highly lethal means and the importance of not leaving those at risk for suicide alone," state the CDC. "Early prevention of suicidal thoughts and behavior is critical."
For the report, the authors analyzed mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System for 1994 through to 2012, examining suicide trends and mechanisms according to sex, age, race, ethnicity and region of residence.
Among young people aged 10-24 in the US, suicide is the second leading cause of death, accounting for 5,178 deaths in this age group in 2012. The three most common mechanisms are firearm, suffocation (including hanging) and poisoning (including drug overdose).
In this age group, firearm had been the most common mechanism of suicide since the 1980s but in 2000, the report states, suffocation surpassed firearm as the most common mechanism among females.
'Practitioners 'should be aware of the increased use of suffocation as a suicide method'
Despite the increases in suicide deaths from suffocation, overall age-adjusted suicided rates among males fell during the study period, falling from 15.7 per 100,000 in 1994 to 11.9 per 100,000 in 2012. In contrast, however, suicide rates among females increased during this time, from 2.7 to 3.2 per 100,000.
According to the authors, 17% of high school students reported seriously considering suicide and 8% reported attempting suicide one or more times over the past year.
"Clinicians, hotline workers, and other practitioners who are trained to assess suicide plans and to intervene with young persons should be aware of the increased use and high lethality of suffocation as a suicide method," the authors suggest.
Variation in how the manner of death is determined from region to region may have affected the findings of the report, and it is suggested that the suicide rates presented in this report could be an underestimation of actual prevalence. Despite these limitations, the report still demonstrates that there is an issue that requires addressing.
The authors of the study write that additional research is required to understand why suffocation suicide rates are increasing, such as an investigation into perceptions about hanging as a method of suicide. Suffocation suicide rates have also increased in older adults - particularly middle-aged adults.
"We all have a role to play in providing support and reducing stigma associated with seeking help," conclude the CDC. "If you are concerned about someone you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK."
Medical News Today previously reported on a study finding that a suicide attempt by a parent with a mood disorder could significantly increase the risk of suicidal behavior in offspring.