National Suicide Rate Climbs to 30-Year High

Family standing in cemetery at funeralSuicide rates have risen to a 30-year high, increasing by 24% between 1999 and 2014, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Beginning in 2006, the suicide rate rose by 2% each year. By 2014, 13 out of every 100,000 people died by suicide. Suicide claimed 42,773 lives in 2014, compared to 29,199 in 1999. This marks the highest national suicide rate since 1986.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and contributes to an even larger share of deaths among young people. It was the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-24. Suicide attempts and thoughts are even more common. In 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 9.3 million adults—3.9% of the population—experience suicidal thoughts each year. About 2.7 million adults made a suicide plan sometime during the last year, with 1.3 million—0.6% of the adult population—attempting suicide.

The year 1999 marked a low in the national suicide rate. Researchers involved with the study say they selected this as the starting point for the study because it allowed them to track increases and changes over time.

Behind the Numbers: Who Is More Likely to Attempt Suicide?

The numbers suggest suicide has increased among almost every age and demographic group except for seniors older than age 75. This group saw a slight decrease in the rate of suicide. Black males also experienced a decline in suicide rates, from 10.5 to 9.7 per 100,000—a decrease of 8%.

The research provides key insights about who dies by suicide:

  • Suicide increased among both white women and men, but the rate climbed more sharply among white women, who saw a 60% increase in suicide. The white male suicide rate increased by 28%.
  • The gender gap in suicide may be narrowing. Though women in some groups had large increases in suicide rates, men remained more likely to die by suicide than women. In 2013, men were 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide.
  • The biggest increases in suicide were among Alaska Natives and American Indians, who experienced an 89% increase in suicides among women and a 38% increase in suicides among men.
  • Middle-aged people saw a significant increase in suicides, with women ages 45-64 seeing a 63% increase in suicide. Middle-aged men experienced a 43% increase in suicide, marking the largest increase among men in any age group.
  • Girls ages 10-14, who historically had low suicide rates, had a three-fold increase in suicide. In 1999, 50 girls in this age group killed themselves. By 2014, the figure had tripled to 150.
  • Suicide methods are changing, with suffocation and strangulation-related suicides accounting for 25% of 2014 suicides, compared to 20% of suicides in 1999. While gun use decreased in suicides of women by 6% and in suicides of men by 7%, the overall number of gun suicides increased.

Why Is Suicide Increasing?

The study did not directly assess factors that contribute to suicide, but demographic shifts that coincide with the increase might help explain the numbers. Those include:

  • A decrease in marriage rates and a rise in divorce. Marriage may improve health and alleviate loneliness. Research has shown unmarried people are more likely to die by suicide than those who are married,
  • Thwarted dreams and expectations among middle-aged Americans, who may have anticipated more prosperous or rewarding adulthoods.
  • Poverty and a weak economy. Since the 1920s, suicide rates have been highest during economic downturns.

Maryland psychotherapist Carey A. Heller, PsyD, who works with people who are experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts, speculated the suicide rate increase is likely due to many factors.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if you need help for a friend or loved one, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room.“One factor is that there is overall more pressure put on children and teens academically. For some highly achieving students and for others who really struggle, the burden and stress becomes too significant,” Heller said. “This can also affect adults in terms of increased pressure in the workplace and perhaps a shift away from the work/life balance that may have been more customary 30 plus years ago in many industries. Furthermore, with technology, always being able to be connected to work exacerbates the ability for adults to rejuvenate during time off.”

Earlier this month, another study assessed risk factors for suicide in 51 women. A number of biomarkers—including some that decreased the effectiveness of Lithium and that interfered with circadian rhythms—increased the risk of suicide. Stress, overall health, and lifestyle also played a role in the development of suicidal thoughts.

The Connection Between Suicide and Mental Health

Although lifestyle and social factors may affect the rising suicide rate, mental health plays a prominent role. According to Emory University, people with depression are 20 times more likely to kill themselves, and two-thirds of people who die by suicide had depression.

People with mental health conditions often do not receive adequate care. Concerns about stigma, access to care, and denial of mental health issues can intensify this phenomenon. Between 40% and 75% of people who experience mental health issues do not receive the help they need.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if you need help for a friend or loved one, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room.

References:

  1. Curtin, S., MA, Warner, M., PhD, & Hedegaard, H., MD, MSPH. (2016, April 22). Increase in suicide in the United States, 1999-2014. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm
  2. Stigma as a barrier to mental health care. (2014, September 4). Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/stigma-as-a-barrier-to-mental-health-care.html
  3. Suicide: Facts at a glance [PDF]. (2015). Atlanta: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Suicide statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.emorycaresforyou.emory.edu/resources/suicidestatistics.html
  5. Sullivan, E., MPH, Annest, J. L., PhD, Simon, T. R., PhD, Luo, F., PhD, & Dahlberg, L., PhD. (2015, March 6). Suicide trends among persons aged 10–24 years — United States, 1994–2012. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6408a1.htm
  6. Tavernise, S. (2016, April 21). U.S. suicide rate surges to a 30-year high. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html?_r=1
  7. U.S. suicide rates up, especially for women. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/22/health/suicide-rates-rise/

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  • Lola

    Lola

    April 25th, 2016 at 2:46 PM

    I think that there is something about our country right now that is driving this.’There is an awful lot of animosity and hatred that is being thrown about with very little regard to how this makes others feel. We say things and even though we might not be serious there is someone out there who is likely taking this very seriously. I think that we should all in some ways try even harder to be so much kinder to one another as what we are doing now? It is not doing the trick.

  • craine

    craine

    April 26th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    does not seem that there can ever be one clear and concise reason for what exactly is causing this and I think that is why so many of us are perplexed when it happens

  • Chip

    Chip

    April 27th, 2016 at 2:12 PM

    I can say that I have thought about suicide before but then I feel this overwhelming sense of guilt about how I would leave my family behind and how this would be a way out for me but only the beginning of the pain for them. So I have soldiered on. I have gotten treatment and it is not something that I would ever even consider doing anymore. But believe me, when you are in the depths of that kind of depression it can feel like it will be impossible to raise yourself back up out of it ever again.

  • Leighton

    Leighton

    April 29th, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    There are so many pressing issues in our society today, that the worries about all of that day in and day out would be enough to wear down even many of the strongest among us. It is no wonder that the rates seem to always be on a upward climb.

  • ellen b

    ellen b

    April 30th, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    Oh I am at that point in my life where I always thought that I would have so much more and here I am continuing to fight tooth and nail for everything that I have. It is pretty disheartening because I work hard and yet I am still stuck on the debt cycle just like so many other people that I know. That kind of discouragement year after year can finally send you to your breaking point.

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