Suicide is a complex and multifaceted issue that continues to be a significant public health concern worldwide. In the United States, suicide rates have been steadily increasing over the past few decades, with approximately 48,344 deaths by suicide reported in 2018 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020). While suicide affects individuals from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, there is evidence to suggest that certain racial and ethnic groups may be at a higher risk for suicide than others. Understanding the variations in suicide rates among different racial and ethnic groups is crucial for developing targeted interventions and reducing the overall burden of suicide.
This report aims to explore the existing literature on suicide rates by race and ethnicity in the United States. By examining previous research, this report seeks to identify trends, disparities, and potential risk factors associated with suicide in specific racial and ethnic populations. The findings from this review will contribute to the existing body of knowledge in the field and inform future research and prevention efforts.
Suicide rates vary considerably among different racial and ethnic populations in the United States. Although suicide rates are higher among certain ethnic groups relative to others, it is important to note that racial and ethnic disparities in suicide rates are influenced by a complex interplay of individual, social, and contextual factors (Stein et al., 2018). Therefore, it is essential to examine these factors in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the variations in suicide rates by race and ethnicity.
One racial group that has consistently been reported to have higher suicide rates is the White population in the United States. Numerous studies have shown that White individuals have higher suicide rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups (CDC, 2019; Qin & Agerbo, 2015). The reasons for this disparity are multifactorial and can be attributed to several factors. For instance, a higher prevalence of mental health conditions, such as depression and substance abuse disorders, as well as access to lethal means, such as firearms, have been identified as contributing factors to the higher suicide rates among Whites (Stein et al., 2018). Additionally, societal factors like social isolation, economic stress, and cultural norms of self-reliance may also play a role (CDC, 2019).
In contrast to the higher suicide rates among Whites, some ethnic minority groups in the United States have been found to have comparatively lower suicide rates. For example, African Americans consistently exhibit lower suicide rates in comparison to Whites (CDC, 2019; Stein et al., 2018). This finding may be attributed to various protective factors that are often found within African American communities, such as strong social ties, religious involvement, and resilience in the face of adversity (Crosby et al., 2016). The resilient cultural identity and social support systems prevalent within African American communities may serve as significant protective factors against suicidal ideation and behavior.
Another racial and ethnic group that requires attention regarding suicide rates is the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population. The AIAN population consistently reports higher suicide rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States (CDC, 2019). Disparities in suicide rates among AIANs can be attributed to a confluence of factors, including historical trauma, acculturation stress, social marginalization, poverty, and limited access to mental health care (Hawkins et al., 2019; Jim et al., 2019). Additionally, substance abuse, particularly alcohol misuse, has been identified as a significant risk factor for suicide in this population (Indian Health Service, 2019). Interventions that address these underlying contextual factors and provide culturally sensitive care may help reduce the burden of suicide among AIAN individuals.
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is another group that exhibits unique patterns of suicide rates in the United States. Although AAPI individuals generally have lower suicide rates compared to Whites, there is evidence to suggest that these rates may be increasing among certain subgroups, such as Filipino and Korean Americans (CDC, 2019; Kim & Mo, 2016). The lower overall suicide rates among AAPI individuals may be attributed to strong family cohesion, cultural values, and stigma associated with mental health help-seeking that may discourage individuals from reporting suicidal ideation or engaging in self-harm behaviors (Noh et al., 2014). Nonetheless, increased attention is necessary to understand the potential risk factors contributing to the escalating suicide rates within specific AAPI populations.
In conclusion, this literature review highlights the variations in suicide rates by race and ethnicity in the United States. While Whites have consistently been found to have higher suicide rates, African Americans exhibit lower rates, possibly due to protective factors within their communities. American Indian and Alaska Native populations face unique challenges that contribute to high suicide rates, while Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders may experience increasing rates among certain subgroups. Understanding these variations and the underlying factors is essential for developing targeted interventions and prevention strategies that address the specific needs of different racial and ethnic groups. Future research should continue to explore the complex interactions between individual, social, and contextual factors in order to inform effective suicide prevention efforts across diverse populations.