Concern Rises as College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years, Study Finds 

College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years. Credit | Pixabay
College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years. Credit | Pixabay

United States: The suicide rate among college athletes in the US has been twice as high during the past two years when compared to the data collected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 

Pressures and Challenges Faced by Athletes 

As far as college athletes are concerned, suicides are now the second highest cause of death, and sports accidents are the first, studies have revealed, as reported by HealthDay. 

“Athletes are generally thought of as one of the healthiest populations in our society, yet the pressures of school, internal and external performance expectations, time demands, injury, athletic identity, and physical fatigue can lead to depression, mental health problems, and suicide,” wrote the research team led by Bridget Whelan, a research coordinator with the University of Washington in Seattle. 

Study Findings and Statistics 

In the study, Whelan and teammates analyzed suicides among NCAA athletes who took their lives between June 2002 and June 2022. 

In all of 20 years, only 1,102 athletes lost their lives. Of those, 128 manifested a suicide attempt, 98 of them were males and 30 were females. 

The suicide rate among college student-athletes has increased drastically if we compare the first decade’s statistics with those of the second, growing from 7.6% to 15.3%. The US rate of suicide also increased, but it was 36%, which is not as significant as the overall rate. 

Males’ suicides can boast an increase each year of the research period; females’ suicides can be noticed as beginning to increase since 2010. 

A male suicide rate rose from 31 in the period of first ten years and peaked at 67 in the second decade of the disease outbreak, researchers noted. The data show that the number of suicides by females has risen from 9 to 26 over these two decades. 

In each two-year period, there were nine deaths among men and 3 among women. 

College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years. Credit | GETTY
College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years. Credit | GETTY

Risk Factors and Patterns 

Results revealed that male long-distance runners in the toughest divisions I and II had more suicides compared to those in Division III. 

Moreover, the scientists discovered that during the same period, there were two deaths per five years for athletes who participated in cross country. 

The rate of suicides was also higher during the school year, as opposed to the summer season, as the monthly average for the school year was 12, while that for summer was less than seven, the results show. 

The findings were published on April 4 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. 

The data presented leave out any information that might be able to explain how athletes commit suicide, the researchers acknowledge. 

College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years.
College Athlete Suicides Double in Two Years.

“Athletes may … experience harassment and abuse within their sport, including psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, hazing and cyberbullying from the public and members of their team including peer athletes, coaches and members of the entourage,” the researchers speculated, as reported by HealthDay. 

Call for Action 

The scientists highlighted that the NCAA has waged a battle against mental health among college athletes over the past few years. 

“Despite the recent increased focus on mental health in athletes, death by suicide is increasing,” they noted.