The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed last week that the number of American adults who take their own lives jumped dramatically in the first decade of the 21st century.
In a report released last Thursday, the CDC said each of the Nation’s four geographic regions have seen at least a 23 percent increase in suicides, with the rate for some areas and demographic groups soaring well beyond that. In fact, suicides have now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as a cause of death in the United States.
Among age groups, the study, which examined suicides between 1999 and 2010, found that middle-aged Americans between 50 to 54 and 55 to 59 increased the most — 48 percent and 49 percent, respectively. Why? Maybe it’s the economy, the report speculates:
Possible contributing factors for the rise in suicide rates among middle-aged adults include the recent economic downturn (historically, suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher rates observed during times of economic hardship); a cohort effect, based on evidence that the “baby boomer” generation had unusually high suicide rates during their adolescent years; and a rise in intentional overdoses associated with the increase in availability of prescription opioids. Additional research is needed to understand the cause of the increase in age-adjusted suicide rates and why the extent of the increase varies across racial/ethnic populations.
In terms of ethnic populations, whites and American Indians represented the greatest increase, with the suicide rate among white people swelling by 40.4 percent; that of American Indians, by 65.2 percent, in just a decade.
The study also provided some morbid details about manner of death: Men prefer guns and hangings, while women used guns and poison. Use of guns in suicides increased by 14 percent, while poison increased by 24 percent. But the rate of people who killed themselves by hanging far outpaced either method, increasing by an astonishing 81 percent.