STUDY: Big spike in U.S. kids, teens attempting suicide

(CBS) -- New research claims that there has been a significant rise in the number of school-age children and teens thinking of, or attempting, suicide.

A study, published in the journal Pediatrics, discovered that the number of kids and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts more than doubled in the U.S. from 2008 to 2015.

"There are increasing rates of anxiety and depression in youth and young adults. Some people have theorized that social media is playing a role," study author Dr. Gregory Plemmons, an associate professor of pediatrics with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University, told CBS News.

Researchers studied trends in emergency room nad impatient visits for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in people between ages five and 17 at children's hospitals in the U.S.

At 31 of those hospitals, the study identified 116,000 cases. About two-thirds of the cases involved girls. All ages groups saw increases, but those aged 15 to 17 were the highest, followed by those aged 12 to 14.

The data found that the rates for suicidal thoughts and attempts were higher in fall and spring, suggesting that school could play a role. Plemmons said he was not surprised by the research because previous studies have shown a dramatic increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression among young people.

Authors of the study pointed out that suicide is now the third leading cause of death among American adolescents.

Social media could also play a role, according to the study. "We know that increasing screen time on electronic devices is a marker for depression, as well, so talking to teens about their use of media is important," Plemmons said.

It's important to know the warning signs. "Major changes in sleep and appetite can be a red flag," he continued.