A new study released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit organization, found that teen suicides are “closely tied” to in-person schooling.
According to the report titled “In-Person Schooling and Youth Suicide: Evidence from School Calendars and Pandemic School,” there has been a consistent increase in youth suicides since 2006.
Research revealed that from 1990 to 2019, there was a “historical association between teen suicides and the school calendar.” When children are home from school during summer months and winter holidays, youth suicide rates decrease, and when they return to class, the rates increase.
Notably, suicide rates for young adults remained the same during the summer months and the December holiday season.
“We show that suicides among 12-to-18-year-olds are highest during months of the school year and lowest during summer months (June through August) and also establish that areas with schools starting in early August experience increases in teen suicides in August, while areas with schools starting in September don’t see youth suicides rise until September.”
According to researchers, this pattern changed in 2020 following the COVID shutdowns. In March 2020, youth suicides dropped drastically. However, when kindergarten through 12th-grade students returned to in-person schooling in fall 2020, suicide rates began to increase once again.
The study revealed a 12-18% increase in youth suicide rates during seasons children were attending in-person classes.
“Across all of our analyses, our results repeatedly and convincingly [show] that in-person schooling is a contributor to teen suicide,” the report stated.
The study makes clear that it does not argue for school closures or remote learning. Instead, it “shines a light on the continued need for more research on youth mental health and deeper investigation why it declines for some students when school is in session,” the authors stated.
In fact, the report touted the “substantial long-term benefits to education” and noted the “growing body of research” that school closures likely negatively impacted youth isolation and mental health and created “many other adverse spillover effects.” It cited a report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that suggested suicide attempts rose 50% among young women during the COVID lockdowns.
The study’s authors hope “future research and policy could focus on the determinants and consequences of bullying victimization, and the role that other policies — such as access to mental health care and safe storage of guns — could play in reducing these risks.”