Suicide rate among middle-aged Americans on the rise

Suicide rate among middle-aged Americans on the rise

A new government study finds that suicide deaths among middle-aged Americans have risen dramatically even surpassing deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

The new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that in 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes compared to 38,364 suicides.

“Suicide is a tragedy that is far too common,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., in a news release. “The stories we hear of those who are impacted by suicide are very difficult.  This report highlights the need to expand our knowledge of risk factors so we can build on prevention programs that prevent suicide.”

Using data collected through the CDC’s web-based reporting system, researchers looked at suicide trends among U.S. adults aged 35 to 64 from 1999 to 2010.

Annual suicide rates among this group increased 28 percent over the period going from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010. The results showed the rates particularly high among non-Hispanic whites and American Indians and Alaska Natives. Suicide rates among those younger than 35 and older than 65 did not change significantly, the report said.

Other findings included:

  • The greatest increases in suicide rates were among people aged 50 to 54 years (48 percent) and 55 to 59 years (49 percent).
  • Suicide rates increased 23 percent or more across all four major regions of the United States.
  • Firearm and hanging/suffocation were the most common methods of suicide for middle-aged men. Poisoning and firearms were the most common for middle-aged women.

The news isn’t surprising to some mental health professionals. Dr. Shastri Swaminathan, psychiatrist and chair of behavioral health services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, says given the state of the economy in recent years, the report confirms what he’s been seeing.

“The job losses we’ve had and the disruptions they have caused among families have put many people at risk for depression and suicide,” he said. “What makes things even more challenging have been the cuts to mental health services and resources.”

But Dr. Swaminathan hopes the report raises awareness about the importance of providing improved access to mental health services.

“There is hope for people with mental illness,” he said. “We have a number of highly effective treatments that we didn’t have 20 years ago. Now it’s a matter for people to advocate for increased funding for these services.”

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About the Author

Vince Pierri
Vince Pierri
health enews contributor

Vince Pierri, health enews editor, is a public affairs manager at Advocate Health Care’s corporate headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois. Vince came to Advocate after more than 25 years of experience working for daily newspapers. A former photographer, photo editor and reporter, he now produces external and internal communications for Advocate along with pitching stories to national and local media and establishing relationships with journalists. Vince and his wife Catherine have six children and live in Mundelein. He enjoys reading and running but not at the same time.

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