Suicide on the Rise in Middle Aged Adults

Now, more Americans die by suicide than in car accidents, reports the CDC. Traditionally, suicide prevention efforts have been focused mostly on youths and older adults, but recent evidence suggests that there have been substantial increases in suicide rates among middle-aged adults.

The annual, age-adjusted suicide rate among persons aged 35–64 years increased 28.4%, from 13.7 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 17.6 in 2010. Among racial/ethnic populations, the greatest increases were observed among American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) (65.2%, from 11.2 to 18.5) and whites (40.4%, from 15.9 to 22.3).

By mechanism, the greatest increase was observed for use of suffocation (81.3%, from 2.3 to 4.1), followed by poisoning (24.4%, from 3.0 to 3.8) and firearms (14.4%, from 7.2 to 8.3). The findings underscore the need for suicide preventive measures directed toward middle-aged populations.

The three most common suicide mechanisms were firearms (i.e., penetrating injury or gunshot wound from a weapon using a powder charge to fire a projectile), poisoning (predominantly drug overdose) and suffocation (predominantly hanging). These three mechanisms and an “all other” mechanism category were used for comparisons. Data also were analyzed by age group, race/ethnicity, and region.

This report focuses on adults aged 35–64 years because percentage changes from 1999 to 2010 in the annual age-adjusted suicide rates for persons aged 10–34 years and ≥65 years were comparatively small and not statistically significant.

The suicide rate for men aged 35–64 years increased 27.3%, from 21.5 to 27.3, and the rate for women increased 31.5%, from 6.2 to 8.1 Among men, the greatest increases were among those aged 50–54 years and 55–59 years, (49.4%, from 20.6 to 30.7, and 47.8%, from 20.3 to 30.0, respectively). Among women, suicide rates increased with age, and the largest percentage increase in suicide rate was observed among women aged 60–64 years (59.7%, from 4.4 to 7.0).

By racial/ethnic population, the greatest increases from 1999 to 2010 among men and women overall were observed among AI/ANs (65.2%, from 11.2 to 18.5) and whites (40.4%, from 15.9 to 22.3). Among AI/ANs, the suicide rate for women increased 81.4%, from 5.7 to 10.3; the rate for men increased 59.5%, from 17.0 to 27.2. Among whites, the rate for women increased 41.9%, from 7.4 to 10.5; the rate for men increased 39.6%, from 24.5 to 34.2.

Suicide rates from 1999 to 2010 increased significantly across all four geographic regions and in 39 states. In 2010, rates for adults aged 35–64 years were highest (19.5 per 100,000 population) in the West.

By suicide mechanism, age-adjusted rates increased for the three primary mechanisms for both men and women. Firearms and suffocation were the most common mechanisms for men (14.3 and 6.8 in 2010, respectively), whereas poisoning and firearms were the most common mechanisms for women (3.4 and 2.5 in 2010, respectively).

Read the full report.

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