The results might surprise you.
The suicide rate in the United States is up for the first time in a decade and white middle-aged women, followed by men, are leading the increase.
This six-year study, from 1999 to 2005, finds that the U.S. suicide rate rose 11 percent per 100,000 people in 2005. Compare that to 10.5 percent per 100,000 in 1999. That is an increase of just under five percent.
White women had the highest increase of 3.9 percent. White men had a 2.7 percent increase. Middle aged was considered between the ages of 40 to 64.
Black middle-aged men and women did experience a slight decline in the suicide rate. For Asians and Native Americans, the rate remained stable, the study found.
Whites have historically had higher suicide rates than Black Americans.
In fact, nearly all of the increase was attributed to suicides among the middle-aged white baby boomer group.
Historically suicide prevention programs have targeted teens and young adults. This data reveals the scope needs to be broadened.
"This is a group we haven't had as much focus on in terms of suicide, because the death rates were higher in elderly white males, and there has been a lot of attention to teenagers and young adults," said lead researcher Susan P. Baker, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tells US News. "This 40-to-64 age group has been neglected."
The results were surprising to researchers. Sociologists find that the middle years are generally the most secure and emotionally stable.
“Historically, suicide prevention programs have focused on groups considered to be at highest risk — teens and young adults of both genders as well as elderly white men," she continued. "This research tells us we need to refocus our resources to develop prevention programs for men and women in their middle years.”
How are they doing it? Firearms remain the primary method of suicide, although that rate decreased over the study period. Suffocation or hanging increased, 6.3 percent annually among men and 2.3 percent annually among women. Poisoning accounted for 18 percent of the deaths.
Researchers believe that the increase among white middle-aged people may be due to prescription pain medication such as OxyContin. Prescription pills often have suicide as a side effect. The smoking cessation drug, Chantix, is the latest to be associated with suicides, as is Paxil, and the allergy medication, Singulair.
Untreated depression is a known contributor to suicide. For every suicide deaths there are an estimated eight to 25 attempts.
Suicide rates had declined 18 percent from 1986 to 1999, but remained the eleventh leading cause of the death in the U.S accounting for more than 32,000 deaths in 2004.
The research is out of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Injury Research and Policy.
Researched used the Web-based Statistics Query and Reporting System. The statics are gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The computer system breaks down the information by age, race, sex and state.
The results will be published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. #