Just a couple of days removed from a report that announced that the U.S. life expectancy had dropped for the first time since 1993 owing to drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide, a new study released today shows a dramatic rise in suicides especially among middle-aged women.
Dramatic rise in U.S. suicide rate
With the exception of older adults, suicide has seen a massive surge across all demographics. While suicide among middle-aged Americans had been falling since the 1950s, that group is most responsible for the rise according to the National Center for Health Statistics which posted a 24% overall rise in suicides between 1999 and 2014 in a study released today. The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64 rose a staggering 63% to account for much of the overall rise. Men in the same age range saw a rise of 43% over the same time period.
With the increase the nation’s rate is now 13 per 100,000 people, the highest it’s been since 1986. To look further at the plague and problem that is suicide, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999.
Not surprisingly, the reason for the increase is being linked to work stress and concerns over money.
“It’s really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group,” said Katherine Hempstead who has studied the increase in suicides as it relates to personal finances and work concerns.
The only positive to take out of these new numbers is the fact that one racial group’s suicide numbers were down, black men. While the only age group that saw a decline was men and women over 75.
And that truly is the only positive as the suicide rate of girls 10 to 14, while low comparatively, tripled. In 2014, 150 girls in this age range took their own lives compared to 50 in 1999.
Unlike this week’s numbers that pointed out that drug overdoses, suicide and liver disease are disproportionately affecting white people with only a high school education, this study did not look at the education levels of those that committed suicide.
“This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health,” said Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard.
Suicide prevention funding stays the same
“We have more and more effective treatments, but we have to figure out how to bake them into health care systems so they are used more automatically,” said Dr. Jane Pearson, chairwoman of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Suicide Research Consortium. The group is responsible for distributing the National Institutes of Health’s funding for prevention research. “We’ve got bits and pieces, but we haven’t really put them all together yet.”
While suicide rates have seen a dramatic increase, funding from the N.I.H. has largely remained static.
If this wasn’t morbid enough for your morning….about one in four suicides in 2014 were by hanging or strangulation compared to less than one in five in 1999. The rise is attributed to the availability of materials to kill yourself be it a belt, rope or plastic bag or other readily available household item. Gun use in suicides went down to 37% of female suicides to 31%, while men also used guns less often but remained the preferred means with firearms being used 55% for men in 2014 compared to 62% in 1999.
You don’t have to be a statistician to put together these numbers and the country’s economic outlook.
“There was a consistent pattern,” said Dr. Alex Crosby, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which held for all ages between 25 and 64. “When the economy got worse, suicides went up, and when it got better, they went down.”