Survey: Suicidal Thoughts High Among US Teen Girls

March 9, 2023


Pader Moua, MPH
Policy Analyst

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Suicidal thoughts and poor mental health are at high levels among female U.S. high school students, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds.

In 2021, 22% of all U.S. high school students seriously considered attempting suicide, up from 16% in 2011, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends Report. Among female students, nearly one in three, or 30%, seriously considered attempting suicide, an increase from 19% in 2011. The survey also found that female students were more likely to make a suicide plan, attempt suicide, or be injured in a suicide attempt compared to their male peers.

An alarmingly high rate of U.S. students, 42%, reported they were unable to do their usual activities due to almost daily feelings of sadness or hopelessness for at least two weeks in 2021. This is up from 28% of students in 2011. The rate is even higher for female students: nearly 60% (up from 36% in 2011), compared to 29% for male students.

These survey-based findings are released every two years. The findings for 2021 are the first to capture the disruptions and challenges faced by high school students since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

State-specific data for 2021 are not yet available, but Arkansas-specific data from surveys in recent years indicate disproportionately higher rates of suicidal thoughts and poor mental health among female high school students compared to male students. The percentage of female students in Arkansas who seriously considered attempting suicide rose from 18% in 2011 to 25% in 2019, while among male students the percentage increased from 11% in 2011 to 14% in 2019. Among all high school students in Arkansas, 20% considered a suicide attempt in 2019, up from 14% in 2011. In 2019, female high school students in Arkansas were also more likely than their male peers to make a suicide plan and attempt suicide.

Forty-seven percent of female students in Arkansas reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2019 (up from 36% in 2011), compared to 25% of male students (up from 21% in 2011). Among all Arkansas high school students, 36% reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2019, up from 28% in 2011.

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