Study: suicide second-leading cause of death for college athletes

University of Washington researchers have shared the findings from a 20-year study on the mental health of college student-athletes.

The findings show that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college-aged student-athletes with the rates doubling over those 20 years.

A recent story from detailed the study’s findings. Below is an excerpt from the story.

The study looked at data for over two decades from 2002 to 2022. It found 1,102 student-athletes died between those years and of the student-athletes, 128 people died by suicide.

On average, the athletes who died were 20 years old.

The proportion of suicide deaths doubled from the first 10 years of the study (just over 7.5%) to the second 10 years (just over 15%), while other causes of death in this population decreased.

“A lot of people believe that college athletes have protective factors around them … they’re part of a team, and they have medical providers that are looking in on them, and they have a lot of support,” said Bridget Whelan, the lead author of the study. “And this study is showing that they are equally as susceptible to having this issue.”

The study also found that suicide among males occurred 77% of the time. The rates more than doubled during the 20-year span they looked at. Among female college athletes, suicide rates increased as well from 2010 onward.

“I think that there’s a lot of additional pressures that they may be facing. So much of their identity as an athlete is graded on performance,” Whelan said.

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Researchers point to the rise of social media as a possible contributing factor to the startling statistics.

“It is very hard to talk about the things that a lot of us should probably be talking about. Being able to find the person that you can trust to share that with is that extra step that just becomes harder,” Whelan said.

To read the full story from, click here.