Suicide Rates Among Middle-Aged US Adults On The Rise

Based on nearly a decade’s worth of statistics reviewed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), their final report reflects a substantial increase of suicide among those 35 to 64.

The surge in the aforementioned group jumped 28.4 percent from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 17.6 suicides per 100,000 in 2010. The rate of self-inflicted deaths among men increased from 21.5 to 27.3 per 100,000 (27.3 percent), and, in women, it rose by 31.5 percent.

The highest frequency of change was found among women 60 to 64 with a 59.7 percent jump followed by those 55 to 59, with a 49.4 percent increase in men and 47.8 percent in women. As women aged, the rate of suicide grew.

Overall, firearms were the most common method used on average in 8.3 suicides per 100,000; hanging and suffocation in 4.1 per 100,000, increasing by 81.3 percent; and poisoning in 3.8 per 100,000, which also increased by 24.4 percent. Firearms and suffocation were more frequent among men whereas women utilized firearms and intentional drug overdose/poisoning.

The exact cause for the increase is unknown, but many surmise the recent economic downturn, a shortage of mental health care providers, and easier access to prescription painkillers may be contributing factors, making middle-aged Americans more vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

The higher suicide rates may be due to a series of life and financial circumstances that are unique to the baby boomer generation, reports the New York Times. Men and women in that age group are often coping with the stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children – especially given the increase in recession created boomerang children, those having to resort to living with their parents due to an inability to find work out of college or after prolonged unemployment.

Typically prevention efforts are aimed at polarized points of teenagers and the elderly, but according to a statement from the director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Linda Degutis, is it equally important “to address the types of stressors that middle-aged Americans might be facing.”

Suicide prevention strategies include enhancing social support and access to mental health services, as well as reducing the self-assessed stigma associated with seeking care. These tools are used to help people overcome job-loss, domestic violence, the loss of a loved one, and stress for caring for family members.

The results were found to be geographically pervasive in states with both high and low suicide rates and found to be highest (by race and ethnicity) among whites, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

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