The suicide rate is increasing. Why is that?

The suicide rate is increasing. Why is that? – KevinMD – Christopher Johnson, MD | Conditions | April 11, 2017

After years of declining, the suicide rate in our country has been increasing, now at about 125 percent of the rate of several decades ago.

This increase accelerated after 2006.  Although all age groups showed an increase, the rate among women, particularly adolescent girls, took a notable jump.

In 2012 suicide was the second leading cause of death in adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, accounting for more deaths in this age group than cancer, heart disease, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes mellitus, human immunodeficiency virus, and stroke combined.  

Actual suicide is just the tip of the iceberg, since, at least among adolescent girls who attempt it typically with drug overdose, there are as many as 90 attempts for every death.

It’s also important to realize suicide attempts are a spectrum — some are more serious than others. Many girls take an overdose and then immediately tell somebody about it

More ominous are children who carefully plan, such as by hoarding powerful drugs in secret and taking them in a setting where they won’t be found. They may leave a suicide note. I couldn’t find any data about whether these different categories are discordant in the rate increase, but I assume the two are tracking together.

Presumably, suicide rates are rough and ready markers for rates of depression. Is teen depression increasing? A 2006 study says no, at least up until then. What about the last decade, since 2006 appears to be the year suicide rates inflected upward in adolescent girls. I did find a snapshot for 2015 from the CDC of the number of adolescents who experienced a major depressive episode during the year — girls were nearly 20 percent.

Mental health problems are notoriously difficult to study because of course, we have no definitive test for them — no blood test, no fancy brain scans.

We mostly rely on surveys. Still, it does seem something changed about a decade ago.

Middle-aged males have seen a dramatic jump in rates.

It appears to me that, for many possible reasons, there is more social anxiety and depression in America, which in turn increases suicide rates.

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