American Indian and Alaska Native Populations

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people are descended from any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.1 The term AI/AN encompasses many ethnic and cultural groups, tribes, and traditions. The data on this web page do not include people of Hispanic ethnicity. In 2018, AI/AN populations comprised an estimated 1.3% of the U.S. population.2

Challenges in understanding suicide rates in AI/AN populations include the following:

  • State mortality data often do not capture tribal affiliation.
  • Tribes may have their own surveillance systems and/or their own definition of suicide.
  • The concept of “suicide” may not be part of the cultural vocabulary of some tribes, making it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain rates.
  • Tribes may be reluctant to share data because they fear it will be misused.

What follows is the best estimate of the scope of suicide in AI/AN populations given these limitations.


 

Suicide Rates for AI/AN Populations, United States 2009-2018

 

At 22.1 per 100,000, the suicide rate for AI/AN populations in 2018 was higher than the overall U.S. suicide rate of 14.2 per 100,000.​3

 

 Suicide Rates for AI/AN Populations by Age, United States 2009-2018 

 

Among AI/AN populations, suicide rates peak during adolescence and young adulthood, and then decline. This is a different pattern than is seen in the overall U.S. population, where suicide rates peak in midlife.​3

 

 Suicide Rates for AI/AN Populations by Sex,  United States 2009-2018 

 

As in the overall U.S. population, the suicide death rate for men is more than three times the rate for women in AI/AN populations. The suicide death rate for AI/AN populations is higher than that of the overall U.S. population for both males and females.3

 

 Past-Year Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors for Adults in AI/AN Populations, United States 2018 

 

Compared to the overall U.S. population, a greater percentage of AI/AN adults reported past-year serious thoughts of suicide, a past-year suicide plan, or a past-year suicide attempt.​4

 

 Past-Year Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors for High School Youth in AI/AN Populations, United States 2017

 

Among high school youth, the percentage of AI/AN youth who made a suicide plan in the past year is roughly equivalent to the percentage in the overall U.S. population. A slightly higher percentage of AI/AN youth seriously considered suicide in the past year when compared to the overall U.S. population.5

 

 References

  1. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). (1997). Revisions to the standards for the classification of federal data on race and ethnicity. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/omb/fedreg_1997standards
  2. U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). QuickFacts. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218#qf-headnote-a
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2020). 1999-2018 Wide Ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research (WONDER), Multiple Cause of Death files [Data file]. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
  4. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2019). 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-detailed-tables
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. (2017). 1991-2017 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/ ​

The charts and graphs in this section are also available as a PowerPoint slide set. Feel free to use this slide set to deliver a presentation about the scope of the suicide problem.