US suicide rates are the highest in 30 years

April 25, 2016 Providence Health Team

Suicide rates in the U.S. have spiked to highs not seen in more than 30 years. Outside of adults over 75, the suicide rate for every age group increased during that time, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The suicide rate was particularly high for middle-aged Americans, whose rate had been steady or on the decline since the 1950s.

Key findings

Researchers at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics chose 1999 as their starting point because the year marked the low point in suicide rates. After looking at 15 years of data, the researchers found that:

  • From 1999 to 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased by 24 percent, from 10.5 per 100,000 to 13 per 100,000 population, the highest rate since 1986. The rates went up the most after 2006.
  • Suicide rates increased for men and women, and for all ages 10 to 74.
  • The suicide rate for middle-age women—45 to 64—surged by 63 percent.
  • The rate for middle-age men jumped by 43 percent, the sharpest increase for men of all ages.

Suicides by race

Among racial and ethnic groups, the rate increase was highest for American Indians. The suicide rate rose 89 percent for women and 38 percent for men. The suicide rate for white middle-age women increased by 80 percent. The only group with a decline was black men, down 8 percent.

Reasons for the increase

Previous research has linked suicide to employment and financial issues. Experts vary in their thinking on the causes of the higher suicide rates, but one study has suggested that increased social isolation for both men and women plays a role. Another study found an association between economic downturns and suicide going back to the Great Depression.

As the new research indicates, suicide does not discriminate by gender, age or ethnicity. In 2013, the CDC reported 41,149 suicides in the U.S.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), the main risk factors for suicide are:

  • Depression, other mental illness or substance abuse
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • A family history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Guns or other firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • The suicidal behavior of others such as family members, peers or media figures

The warning signs of suicide

The NIMH says there are some consistent warning signs that someone might be considering suicide:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself, or talking about wanting to hurt of kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of character
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped as if there is no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

If you think someone might be considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or talk with your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.

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