200053 Fine-tuning data to better understand suicide and self-injury behavior in PA youth: An experiment with age group definitions

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carol Thornton, MPA , Violence and Injury Prevention Program, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harrisburg, PA
Dylan Ellis , Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harrisburg, PA
Background/Purpose: Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10-24 in the U.S. Yet the problem is not uniform across this age range. Among 10-year olds nationwide in 2005, for example, suicide did not rank as a top five cause of death. Also, youth display unique preferences for method of self-injury compared to the general population.

Methods: Inpatient hospitalization data and death certificate data were used to compare suicide and non-fatal self-injury rates by method for ages 10-24. Different age groups were used to determine which showed most clearly the dynamics of youth self-injury. The standard youth age groups (10-14, 15-19, and 20-24) were also compared.

Results: Preliminary results suggest that the standard five year age groups obscure important trends in youth suicide and self-injury behavior. The most discriminating age groups are better aligned with age ranges that define public education, such as middle school age, high school age, and young adults (or college age).

Conclusions: Well-chosen age groupings are essential to define trends within youth suicide and self-injury to determine when certain self-injury behaviors begin and at what age these behaviors change. By more clearly specifying the age ranges for self-injury and suicidal behavior, programs are better able to implement interventions. For example, if definite behavioral shifts are associated with legal or educational age boundaries, then interventions could be better focused on the appropriate channels for preventive services.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify special populations, such as youth, that may be sensitive to age groupings. 2. Explain how age group definitions can influence observed behavior and trends. 3. Discuss the correlation of youth suicidal behavior to key timeframes, such as legal or academic ages.

Keywords: Injury Prevention, Suicide

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Carol is the Section Chief of the Violence and Injury Prevention Program at the Pennsylvania Department of Health and has served in this program for six years. As the Section Chief, Ms. Thornton supervises three full-time program administration staff and co-supervises a full-time statistical analyst for violence and injury prevention. Ms. Thornton serves on the steering committee for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Garrett Lee Smith program funded in 2008.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.