Study: Suicide Rates Decreasing For Some Americans

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A study recently conducted by the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health concludes that the rate of suicides among young and old Americans has been going down since the late 1980s.

“For 40 years, adolescent suicide rates rose,” said Dr. Robert McKeown, who collaborated on the study. “Then, the rates began to decline in the late 1980s for adults 65 and older and in the early 1990s for adolescents and young adults,” he said. “But many people weren’t aware; they kept saying suicides were increasing when it was no longer true.”

Suicide rates for adolescents and young adults fell by 30 percent from 1994 to 2003. The rate of decline was 33 percent for older adults from 1987 to 2003. It should be noted, however, that the rates for those 25 to 64 have not declined.

Researchers suspect there might be a correlation between the decrease in suicide rates and the introduction of newer antidepressants. The findings also contradict concerns that antidepressants may increase suicidal behavior. McKeown, however, states that this issue requires further research.

Researchers also speculate the drop may be the result of an improved economy or better medical care. “It could be that the number of attempted suicides hasn’t gone down,” says McKeown. “We might just have better trauma care that keeps more people alive after attempting to take their own lives.”

The study’s findings appear in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Additional information can also be found at www.sph.sc.edu.

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