Suicide rates in the United States are at their highest level in the past 30 years, and researchers are struggling to figure out why. According to a report from the New York Times, a new study from National Center for Health Statistics breaks down the most recent data to reveal a shocking truth about the U.S.
The study found that suicide has been on the rise in every age group except for the elderly. The increase was particularly pronounced for women and middle-aged Americans. This stands in stark contrast to data from earlier in the 20th century, where both groups saw declining suicide rates.
The suicide rate for middle-aged women from the ages of 45 to 64 rose by a staggering 63 percent, while it rose by 43 percent for men in the same age group. The study, which examined a period from 1999 to 2014, revealed that the overall U.S. suicide rate rose by 24 percent to its highest level since 1986.
The suicide rate in the U.S. rose by 2 percent every year beginning in 2006, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The report reveals that 43,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared to 29,199 in 1999.
According to Katherine Hempstead, the senior advisor for healthcare at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “It’s really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group.”
So what’s behind the rise in suicides around the country? Researchers cite a devastating lack of funding for mental health programs that could potentially address the issue with suffering patients, but other factors like economic stresses likely play a role in the increase. The study reveals that no single demographic is immune from mental illness – nearly every group was represented in the research.
A press release from the CDC describing the study’s key details can be found here.
“From 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 24%, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population, with the pace of increase greater after 2006. Suicide rates increased from 1999 through 2014 for both males and females and for all ages 10–74. The percent increase in suicide rates for females was greatest for those aged 10–14, and for males, those aged 45–64. The most frequent suicide method in 2014 for males involved the use of firearms (55.4%),while poisoning was the most frequent method for females (34.1%). Percentages of suicides attributable to suffocation increased for both sexes between 1999 and 2014.
Suicide is an important public health issue involving psychological, biological, and societal factors (1, 2). After a period of nearly consistent decline in suicide rates in the United States from 1986 through 1999 (3),suicide rates have increased almost steadily from 1999 through 2014. While suicide among adolescents and young adults is increasing and among the leading causes of death for those demographic groups (4),suicide among middle-aged adults is also rising (5). This report presents an overview of suicide mortality in the United States from 1999 through 2014. Suicide rates in 1999 are compared with 2014 for both females and males across age groups, and percentages are compared by method (firearms, poisoning, suffocation, and other means).
The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2014, 13.0 per 100,000 population, was 24% higher than the rate in 1999 (10.5) (Figure 1). The average annual percent increase in the age-adjusted suicide rate was about 1% per year from 1999 through 2006 but increased to 2% per year from 2006 through 2014. In 2014, the age-adjusted rate for males (20.7) was more than three times that for females (5.8). From 1999 through 2014, the percent increase in the age-adjusted suicide rate was greater for females (45% increase) than males (16% increase),resulting in a narrowing of the gender gap in suicide rates (as measured by rate ratios). The ratio of male to female suicide rates was lower in 2014 (3.6) than in 1999 (4.5).
Suicide rates for females were highest for those aged 45–64 in both 1999 (6.0 per 100,000) and 2014 (9.8) (Figure 2). This age group also had the second-largest percent increase (63%) since 1999. Although based on a small number of suicides compared with other age groups (150 in 2014),the suicide rate for females aged 10–14 had the largest percent increase (200%) during the time period, tripling from 0.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 1.5 in 2014. Percent increases in suicide rates since 1999 for females aged 15–24, 25–44, and 65–74 ranged between 31% and 53%. In contrast to other age groups, the suicide rate for women aged 75 and over decreased by 11% from 1999 through 2014, declining from 4.5 to 4.0 per 100,000.
In both 1999 and 2014, suicide rates were highest among men aged 75 and over (Figure 3). In contrast to other age groups, the suicide rate for this demographic group decreased by 8%, from 42.4 per 100,000 in 1999 to 38.8 in 2014. Men aged 45–64 had the second-highest suicide rate for males in 2014 and the largest percent increase (43%) in rates, increasing from 20.8 in 1999 to 29.7 in 2014. While males aged 10–14 had the lowest suicide rate of all age groups, this group experienced the second-largest percent increase (37%) from 1999 through 2014 (from 1.9 to 2.6).
For both females and males, about one in four suicides in 2014 were attributable to suffocation (includes hanging, strangulation, and suffocation),an increase from 1999, when fewer than one in five were by this method (Figure 4). The percentages of suicides attributable to firearms and poisoning were lower in 2014 than in 1999 for both females and males. Poisoning was the most common method of suicide for females in 2014, accounting for about one-third (34.1%) of all female suicides. This was a change from 1999, when firearms were the most common suicide method for women (36.9%),slightly more likely than poisoning (36.0%). More than one-half of male suicides (55.4%) in 2014 were firearm-related, although the percentage of suicides by this method was lower than in 1999 (61.7%). The most frequent “other” suicide methods in 2014 (not shown separately) for females were falls (2.8%) and drowning (1.4%). For males, the most frequent “other” methods were falls (2.2%) and cutting or piercing (1.9%).
Suicide is increasing against the backdrop of generally declining mortality, and is currently one of the 10 leading causes of death overall and within each age group 10–64 (4). This report highlights increases in suicide mortality from 1999 through 2014 and shows that while the rate increased almost steadily over the period, the average annual percent increase was greater for the second half of this period (2006–2014) than for the first half (1999–2006). Increases in suicide rates occurred for both males and females in all but the oldest age group (75 and over). Percent increases in rates were greatest for females aged 10–14 and for males, those aged 45–64. The male-female disparity in suicide rates (as measured by rate ratios) narrowed slightly over the period. Poisoning was the most common suicide method for females in 2014, and firearms were the most frequent for males, but both sexes showed increases since 1999 in the percentage of suicides attributable to suffocation. Suicide numbers and rates for females and males by Hispanic origin and race for 1999 and 2014 are also available.”