Leading Causes of Death in the U.S. Among Teens

Raising a teenager can be a test of patience and nerves as your child moves away from you and toward adulthood. While your adolescent has her eyes fixed on independence, keeping her safe from harm will be one of your highest priorities. Accidents and mishaps happen, and teenagers are not immune to fate. By understanding the leading causes of death for teenagers, you might succeed in keeping your teen safer.


Accidents, or unintentional injuries, claim the highest number of teenagers -- nearly 50 percent -- according to 2010 data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1. Within this category, motor vehicle accidents claim 73 percent of teen lives, accidental poisoning claims 7 percent, drowning claims 5 percent and accidental discharge of a firearm claims 2 percent. Drugs and alcohol are often a contributing factor to the unintentional injury deaths.


Homicides amount to 13 percent of all teenage fatalities, as of 2010. Male teenagers are 6.5 percent more likely to become a homicide victim than female teenagers in 2005, according to the Child Trends DataBank website. Of the homicide numbers, more than 80 percent involved a firearm. Gang violence is a leading culprit in teen homicides, and adults commit about two-thirds of teenage murders.


Teenagers often experience high levels of anxiety and depression, and they are often unable to manage these overwhelming emotions. Suicide claims the third highest group of teenagers, with 11 percent of teenage deaths as of 2010. As much as 20 percent of the total teenage population experiences symptoms of depression at some point, according to associate editor Therese J. Borchard, with the Psych Central website. Of this 20 percent, only 30 percent undergo treatment for depression, leaving many teens struggling to cope with depression without assistance. Male teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide than female teens; however, female teens attempt suicide twice as often as male teenagers.


Illness claims another 11 percent of teenage deaths, as of 2010 data from the CDC. Illness includes cancer, heart disease and congenital anomalies that existed at birth. Some cancers are more prevalent for teenagers, according to the Kids Health website. Osteosarcoma -- bone cancer -- leukemia and testicular cancer are forms of cancer that occur more often in teenagers than in older people.

Remaining Causes

The remaining percentage of teen deaths includes “other causes” that do not fit the predefined categories of accident, homicide, suicide and illness. Some of these causes include pregnancy and childbirth, diabetes, influenza, pneumonia and chronic lower respiratory disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration 4.