• Article
  • May 9, 2017

Suicide Admissions to Children's Hospitals Double over the Last Decade

Research uses data from 32 children's hospitals across the U.S. to identify the issue.

The number of children and adolescents admitted to children's hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than doubled during the last decade, according to new research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.

The study, "Trends in Suicidality and Serious Self-Harm for Children 5-17 Years at 32 U.S. Children's Hospitals, 2008-2015," used the administrative data of 32 children's hospitals participating in Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS), a comparative pediatric database of clinical and resource utilization data. Researchers identified all emergency department and inpatient encounters between 2008 and 2015 for children ages 5 to 17 years old with a discharge diagnosis of suicidality or serious self-harm.

Researchers found 118,363 of these encounters at children's hospitals during the study period. Analysis showed the annual percentage of encounters identified as suicidality or self-harm more than doubled over the study period, increasing from 0.67 percent in 2008 to 1.79 percent in 2015.

Significant increases in visits were noted in all age groups but were higher among older children, says lead author Gregory Plemmons, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Age Number of
Percentage of
Annual increase
in visits
15 to 17 59,631 51% 0.27%
12 to 14 43,682 36% 0.25%
5 to 11 15,050 13% 0.02%

The study also revealed seasonal variations in the suicidality and self-harm cases, with the lowest percentage occurring during summer (June through August) and the highest during spring (March through May) and fall (September through November).

Plemmons said the study's finding echo trends identified in recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Research to understand factors contributing to these trends is urgently needed," Plemmons says, adding that awareness of these trends is also critical for staff preparedness at children's hospitals.

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