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 2011-2020

At 23.9 per 100,000, the suicide rate for American Indian and Alaska Native populations in 2020 was higher than the overall U.S. suicide rate of 13.5 per 100,000.​1

 

 Suicide Rates for AI/AN Populations by Age, United States 2011-2020 

Among American Indian and Alaska Native populations, suicide rates peak during adolescence and young adulthood, and then decline through age 85+. For the overall U.S. population, there is an upward trend from youth until age 44, then a downward trend until age 74, and then an increase in rates from age 75 to 85+.​1

 

 Suicide Rates for AI/AN Populations by Sex,  United States 2011-2020 

As in the overall U.S. population, the suicide death rate for men is more than three times the rate for women in American Indian and Alaska Native populations. The suicide death rate for American Indian and Alaska Native populations is higher than that of the overall U.S. population for both males and females.1

 

 Past-Year Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors for Adults in AI/AN Populations, United States 2020 

Compared to the overall U.S. population, a slightly greater percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native adults reported past-year serious thoughts of suicide and making a past-year suicide plan. There was no comparison data for past-year suicide attempt because of low precision.​2

 

 Past-Year Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors for High School Youth in AI/AN Populations, United States 2019

A higher percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native youth seriously considered attempting suicide (34%) in the past year compared to the overall U.S. population (18%). Among high school youth, the percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native youth who made a suicide plan in the past year was approximately 9% higher than the percentage in the overall U.S. population.3

 

 References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2021). 1999-2020 Wide Ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research (WONDER), Multiple Cause of Death files [Data file]. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
  2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2021). 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2020-nsduh-detailed-tables
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. (2019). 1991-2019 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.