About Public Policy
Suicide Rates Rise Significantly Amongst Baby Boomers, Study Finds
By Keiana Smith-McDowell, NAMI Intern
Suicide rates amongst Americans aged 35 to 64 have significantly increased in the last decade and a half, which raises many questions about the factors related to these risk.
Starting in 2009, more people died of suicide than car accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 deaths from suicide.
Suicide prevention has typically been focused on teenagers and young-adults but the substantial increase amongst middle-aged adults has called for the CDC to further investigate the relationship between suicide and specific trends such as: sex, age, ethnicity, region and mechanisms of suicide.
The findings which appear in the latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report show that suicide rates among Americans 35 to 64 years old rose from 13.7 per 100,000 people to 17.6 per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2010. That’s a 28 percent increase in 11-years. During the 11-year period studied, suicide went from the eighth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.
The greatest increases occurred in people 50 to 54 years old (up 48 percent) and among people 55 to 59 years old (up 49 percent).
The data also showed than men were more likely to take their own lives than women. The suicide rate for men was 27.3 per 100,000 while for women it was 8.1 per 100,000.
Although further research needs to be conducted to understand the increase in baby boomers such as physical and mental health history, CDC researchers note that a possible contributing factor for the rise in suicide can be linked to the recent economic downturn. CNN reports that the increase in chronic health problems amongst this group that lead to high out-of-pocket medical bills might also be a factor in this rise.
In his blog for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Steve Mencher suggests five ways to deal with surging boomer suicides including, put an end to stigma for metal health treatment, enforce “parity,” create a real safe net, advocate for true gender equality, and increase support for veterans.
CDC researchers also point out that in the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action, the U.S. Surgeon General along with the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention describe prevention strategies such as social support, community connectedness, and access to mental health and preventive services which are important for addressing suicide risk across the lifespan.