Youth homicide rates reach 30-year low



A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report has found a decline in homicide rates among U.S. residents aged 10-24 years, reaching a 30-year low of 7.5/100,000 in 2010.

Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, CDC analyzed youth homicide data from 1981 to 2010. Rates varied considerably over the 30-year period, with a sharp rise of 83% occurring from 1985 to 1993, but homicide rates in the youth population experienced a decline starting in 1994; that decline has slowed since 1999. Firearm homicides consistently outnumbered non–firearm homicides as the cause of death; the annual rate of firearm homicides was 3.7 times that of non–firearm homicides during the 30-year period (MMWR 2013,62:545-8).

"These findings highlight the fact that despite an overall decline in homicide to a 30-year low in 2010, some adolescents and young adults remain disproportionately affected," the study authors wrote. In 2010, homicide rates per 100,000 were 12.7 in males, 13.2 in the 20- to 24-year-old age group, and 28.8 for blacks.

The authors added that although there has been a decline in homicides among these high-risk populations, progress has slowed. A violence prevention approach starting in childhood is key to facilitating a continued reduction of youth homicide rates, they said. Such programs may include nonviolent conflict resolution education, family and caregiver involvement in children’s activities, and structural changes within communities to address relevant socioeconomic factors that may contribute to violent behavior.

The investigators noted two limitations to this study. First, race and ethnicity were not separately categorized until 1990. Additionally, discrepancies between census-reported and death certificate–reported classifications of race and ethnicity may have resulted in underestimation of rates in certain groups, because of the misclassification of Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and American Indian/Alaska natives.

Homicide has repeatedly ranked in the top three causes of death among the population aged 10-24 years. The authors of the CDC report stressed the importance of continued active involvement of the public health sector in ending the high rates of violence in these communities.

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