Suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014

U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High – The New York Times – By SABRINA TAVERNISE – APRIL 22, 2016

Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults.

The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.

The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age.  

The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the study on Friday.

The increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006, double the annual rise in the earlier period of the study.

In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999.

“It’s really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group,” said Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser for health care at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who has identified a link between suicides in middle age and rising rates of distress about jobs and personal finances

“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 and the author of “Our Kids,” an investigation of new class divisions in America.

The federal health agency’s last major report on suicide, released in 2013, noted a sharp increase in suicide among 35- to 64-year-olds. But the rates have risen even more since then — up by 7 percent for the entire population since 2010, the end of the last study period — and federal researchers said they issued the new report to draw attention to the issue.

The question of what has driven the increases is unresolved, leaving experts to muse on the reasons.

Julie Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers who has studied suicide among middle-aged Americans, said social changes could be raising the risks. Marriage rates have declined, particularly among less educated Americans, while divorce rates have risen, leading to increased social isolation, she said.

This kind of isolation is a significant factor in addiction as well. (See Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong)

Another possible explanation: an economy that has eaten away at the prospects of families on the lower rungs of the income ladder.

Chronic pain patients are thrust into poverty by their inability to work, even if they had lucrative careers. Both poverty and chronic pain are risk factors for suicide, so they are doubly burdened.

Men still kill themselves at a rate 3.6 times that of women.

Though suicide rates for older adults fell over the period of the study, men over 75 still have the highest suicide rate of any age group — 38.8 per 100,000 in 2014, compared with just four per 100,000 for their female counterpart

A typical man of 75 these days was raised in the time of “strong and silent” men. At the same time, at this age it’s very likely they have pain.

The combination of having pain and not daring to admit it leaves such men with uncontrolled pain, which eventually turns into chronic pain. These men could end up in a great deal of unacknowledged pain, which is in itself isolating.

Constant pain and isolation would make suicide an attractive option when not too many years of life–and they would be painful ones– are left anyway.

 

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