U.S. suicide rate rose sharply among middle-aged over decade

NEW YORK — The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed a startling 28 percent in a decade, a period that included the recession and the mortgage crisis, the government reported Thursday.

The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group. Their suicide rate jumped 40 percent between 1999 and 2010.

But the rates in younger and older people did not change. And there was little change among middle-aged blacks, Hispanics and most other racial and ethnic groups.

Why did so many middle-aged whites take their own lives?

One theory suggests the recession caused more emotional trauma in whites, who tend not to have the same kind of church support and extended families that blacks and Hispanics do. Another theory notes that white baby boomers have always had higher rates of depression and suicide, and that has held true as they’ve hit middle age.

“Some of us think we’re facing an upsurge as this generation moves into later life,” said Dr. Eric Caine, a suicide researcher at the University of Rochester.

During the 1999-2010 period, suicide went from the eighth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the report, which was based on death certificates. People ages 35 to 64 account for about 57 percent of suicides.

During the period studied, the suicide rate for whites ages 35 to 64 spiked from about 16 suicides per 100,000 people to 22 per 100,000.

Suicide prevention efforts have tended to concentrate on teenagers and the elderly, but research over the past several years has begun to focus on the middle-aged. The new CDC report is being called the first to show how the trend is playing out nationally and to look in depth at the racial and geographic breakdown.

The suicide rate registered a statistically significant increase in 39 out of 50 states. The West had the highest suicide rate.

The report also unveiled surprising information about how middle-aged people kill themselves. Health officials have focused for years on drug overdoses, which are the most common manner of suicide attempt. But overdoses often don’t result in deaths.

In the new report, hangings overtook drug overdoses among the middle-aged, becoming the second leading manner of death. But guns remained far in the lead and were the instrument of death in nearly half of all suicides in that age group in 2010.

The economy was in recession from December 2007 until June 2009. Even well afterward, polls showed most Americans remained worried about weak hiring, a depressed housing market and other problems.



CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

More in Local News

Treatment center in north Everett could open in 2020

The 32-bed facility on 10th Street would serve people with addiction and mental illness.

NOPEYEP, YEPNOPE: We love our personalized license plates

Street Smarts asked you to send in vanity plate finds, and readers did not disappoint.

Bill Short, 74, and his sister Pat Veale, 73, attended the old Emander School, which was near what’s now I-5 and 128th Street in south Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Woman wants to commemorate a neighborhood long gone

Pat Veale and her siblings grew up in the Emander area of south Everett.

Somers sees Paine Field as focal point of a thriving county

In an annual speech, he also acknowledged challenges such as opioid addiction, crime and homelessness.

Man revived from opioid overdose at county jail

He was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center then returned to the jail a few hours later.

Man arrested after robbery reported at Lynnwood Walgreens

He matched the description of a suspect in an earlier robbery reported about three miles away.

Bomb threat clears lobby at the Snohomish County Jail

Officers shut down Oakes Avenue between Wall Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Everett.

Slide prompts closure of Whitehorse trail east of Arlington

More than two miles of the route will be closed indefinitely “due to significant earth movement.”

Front Porch

OPPORTUNITY Call for Artists The city of Monroe is looking for artists… Continue reading

Most Read