A systems science approach to identifying data gaps in national data sources on adolescent suicidal ideation and suicide attempt in the United States
Giabbanelli, P.J., Rice, K.L., Nataraj, N., Brown, M.M., & Harper, C.R.
Background Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among adolescents ages 10–14, and third leading cause of death among adolescents ages 15–19 in the United States (U.S). Although we have numerous U.S. based surveillance systems and survey data sources, the coverage offered by these data with regard to the complexity of youth suicide had yet to be examined. The recent release of a comprehensive systems map for adolescent suicide provides an opportunity to contrast the content of surveillance systems and surveys with the mechanisms listed in the map. Objective To inform existing data collection efforts and advance future research on the risk and protective factors relevant to adolescent suicide. Methods We examined data from U.S. based surveillance systems and nationally-representative surveys that included (1) observations for an adolescent population and (2) questions or indicators in the data that identified suicidal ideation or suicide attempt. Using thematic analysis, we evaluated the codebooks and data dictionaries for each source to match questions or indicators to suicide-related risk and protective factors identified through a recently published suicide systems map. We used descriptive analysis to summarize where data were available or missing and categorized data gaps by social-ecological level. Results Approximately 1-of-5 of the suicide-related risk and protective factors identified in the systems map had no supporting data, in any of the considered data sources. All sources cover less than half the factors, except the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD), which covers nearly 70% of factors. Conclusions Examining gaps in suicide research can help focus future data collection efforts in suicide prevention. Our analysis precisely identified where data is missing and also revealed that missing data affects some aspects of suicide research (e.g., distal factors at the community and societal level) more than others (e.g., proximal factors about individual characteristics). In sum, our analysis highlights limitations in current suicide-related data availability and provides new opportunities to identify and expand current data collection efforts.