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Suicide Rates Increase for Middle-Aged Adults in the United States

The recent trend in rising suicide rates for middle-aged adults in the United States is deserving of our attention and a cause for concern for those in the field of prevention. Additionally, we know that a child who has lost a parent or loved one to suicide is affected by that death, and may be at greater risk for suicide themselves by virtue of having experienced that loss.

According to research reported in the most recent issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the suicide rates among middle-aged adults in the United States increased substantially during the period from 1999 and 2010. The largest increases in suicide rates were among those ages 50-54 and 55-59, and among American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and among white Non-Hispanics.

 According to the results of this study, between 1999 and 2010 there was a 28.4% increase in the annual, age-adjusted suicide rate among persons ages 35-64. The greatest rate increase was noted for men between ages 50-54, while the rates for women increased with age, with the largest rate increase noted among women 60-64 years of age. During this same period, the annual age-adjusted suicide rates for those aged 10-34 was comparatively small with a 7% increase and for those over age 65, there was actually a 5.9% decrease in suicide rate.

Among racial/ethnic populations during that same time period, suicide rates increased among American Indian/Alaska Natives by 65.2% and among whites by 40.4%. The suicide rate for American Indian/Alaska Native women increased by 81.4% and for AI/AN men, there was a 59.5% increase. Among whites, the suicide rate for women increased by 41.9% and for men the rate increased by 39.6%.

The results of this study point to the importance of suicide prevention efforts focused on these target populations. Suicide prevention strategies focusing on enhancing social supports and connectedness, and improving access to effective treatment services are of extreme importance if we are to make a difference in reducing this trend and saving lives.

For more information on this study, see CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 3, 2013/62(17); 321-325 @ http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr.