Study: U.S. Collegiate Student-Athlete Suicide Rates Have Doubled Since 2002

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A new study from the British Journal of Sport Medicine shows an alarming rise in suicide rates among collegiate student-athletes in the United States. 

According to the study, which was reported by CNN, suicide is now the second leading cause of death after accidents among U.S. collegiate student-athletes, with rates doubling from 7.6 percent to 15.3 percent in the years between July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2022.

“Collegiate athletes are often thought to have protective factors like the sense of community with their team (and) support of coaches, trainers, doctors and others,” the study’s first author, Bridget Whelan, a research scientist in the department of family medicine at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, told CNN via email.

“Unfortunately, this study shows that collegiate athletes are just as susceptible to these mental health concerns,” Whelan said.

According to CNN, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the US, but for Americans ages 10 to 14 and 25 to 34, it’s the second leading cause, and for those ages 15 to 24, it’s the third leading cause.

Of the 1,102 deaths that occurred during the 20-year time period, 128 were suicides among people who ranged in age from 17 to 24 and were predominantly male (77%) and White (59%). However, most suicides occurred at age 20, which is typically the middle of a collegiate athlete’s school career.

Male cross-country athletes had the highest rates compared with anyone else in the study — a finding that surprised the authors since previous research found higher rates in football, Whelan said.

“This trend highlights the need for better screening methods, prevention strategies and support systems for student-athletes, as well as continued training (and) education for those working with student-athletes,” said Dr. Jacob Kay, clinical research affiliate at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, via email. Kay wasn’t involved in the study.

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