Suicide Rates in America

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In the late 1990s, researchers thought a malaise had lifted from the United States. The rate of suicides was at a low in 1999, and many believed we had risen from the melancholy of the 1980s. Then, the economic crisis took hold in America. By 2014, the suicide rate had skyrocketed to 13 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 residents – a tragic high not seen since 1986, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.


The only way to begin making inroads into solving this difficult problem is to first examine its roots. With a topic as delicate and nuanced as suicide, of course, it’s difficult to draw sweeping conclusions -- and every single suicide victim is just that, an individual. However, we can glean some useful insights on suicide based on the demographics of geography, age, marital status and gender. The logistics of self-inflicted killings—including the prevalent locations and days of the week—give us some hints about the issues influencing this epidemic and how to begin combating it so that more Americans live full and productive lives.

Suicide On the Rise in the United States

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Of course, the cause of the suicide epidemic is not so simple as the state of the economy. But a correlation is clear: The weaker the U.S. economy, the more residents take their own lives. For example, before the 2008 financial crisis, the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 residents did not exceed 12. When the crash hit,, that number rose. From 2009 to 2014, suicide deaths increased by about 11.7 percent. A similar correlation between suicide rates and economic downfall was seen during the Great Depression as well when self-inflicted deaths drastically increased. pidemiologist Dr. Alex Crosby told The New York Times. “There was a consistent pattern,” he said. “When the economy got worse, suicides went up, and when it got better, they went down.”

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An even bolder claim from The Economist: “The rise since 2007, when the financial crisis got under way, adds weight to the idea that suicide studies are really just a branch of macroeconomics.”

State Patterns in Self-Inflicted Deaths: A “Suicide Corridor” Emerges


Certain geographical regions are disproportionately impacted by suicide. A “suicide corridor” – in the parlance of researchers – stretches from Montana (24.5) to New Mexico (21.5), bordered by Nevada (20.2) and Colorado (20.2), reports The Economist. Some of this might be explained by demographics. Non-Hispanic white and Native American people have higher rates of suicide, and these groups make up a high percentage of the suicide corridor. Not to mention that the suicide corridor is a common retirement destination, and the 75-and-older group has the highest number of self-inflicted deaths (proportionally).

The Demographics of Suicide: Gender and Age Group


Looking at the demographics from another perspective, the rise among middle-aged women has been particularly troubling. For women aged 45 to 64, the rate jumped 63 percent from 1999 to 2014, compared to a nearly 43 percent rise for men in the same age bracket. On the other hand, when it comes to the total number of U.S. suicide deaths in one year, men aged 50 to 54 had about 90 percent more suicides than women of the same age – 3,367 and 1,280 deaths respectively. Though men still take their own lives more commonly on the whole (they die by suicide 3.6 times more often than women), women’s rates are rising faster than men’s, according to The New York Times.

The reasons for this jump might be related to women’s pressures both at work and at home, but no definitive data show a causal relationship. More women have joined the workforce over time. From 2000 to 2012, the number of women at work increased almost 10 percent, according to the Department of Labor.


Across genders, work might appear to be the culprit for many victims when looking at the rates of suicides on certain days of the week. Suicides peak on Mondays (16 percent) and then gradually fall throughout the workweek until they hit a low on Saturdays (about 13 percent). Despite appearances, the reason for the Monday spike might not be entirely motivated by hating work.

The co-author of a report on U.K. suicides, Anita Brock, told the BBC: “We suggest it could be linked to a theory to do with new beginnings, such as the New Year, a birthday, or just the start of a new week.” In Europe and America alike, more people take their own lives in the spring, suggesting the “broken promise effect,” as reported in The New York Times – “the sometimes crushing disappointment that spring fails to bring the relief the sufferer has hoped for.”

Of course, every victim of suicide has his or her own reason; this makes it difficult or impossible to confirm these patterns.

Race and Ethnicity: Examining the Factors Behind Cultural Differences in Suicides


White men and women are staggeringly more likely to die by suicide than other ethnic groups. According to our findings, the number of U.S. suicide deaths per 100,000 residents in one year for this group was 15.4. The reasons why are complex and related to culture. “Suicide is not in the black experience – it simply is not done,” writes Kevin E. Early in his book “Religion and Suicide in the African-American Community.” “The perception that suicide is a ‘white thing’ is prevalent in the black community.”

In addition, doctors are more likely to prescribe painkillers to white patients, according to The Washington Post, perhaps putting those patients at increased risk for suicide by opioid overdose.

American Indians or Alaskan Natives had the next highest number of deaths per 100,000 residents – 10.8. Asian or Pacific Islanders followed with 6.1 deaths, and black or African-Americans allotted 5.5 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Where Suicide Happens: Most Frequent Locations of Self-Inflicted Deaths


A large majority of suicides happen at home (58.96%), a location linked to the time of day and the methods victims commonly choose. The rate of suffocation increased from 1999 to 2014 – as many as 1 in 4 suicides in 2014 involved suffocation, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The methods and materials for suffocation, which include strangulation and hanging, are commonly found at home.

More so than suffocation, men most commonly took their own lives with guns, while women were most likely to use poison – two items also likely kept at home. In addition, suicides are more likely to happen between midnight and 4 a.m., when people are commonly in their houses, according to a study out of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. This indicates that insomnia is a risk factor for suicide, according to the study investigator, Michael Perlis.

Additionally, suicides took place at outpatient and ER medical facilities (6.96%), inpatient medical facilities (6.84%), nursing homes (0.20%), and hospice facilities (0.20%).

Finding Professional Help for Suicidal Thoughts

As we've seen, the tragedy of suicide is one that's growing by the year in American society, affecting people of every age, race, and gender. And for every death by suicide, there are far more people struggling with the many causes that can push someone toward feeling there's no other option. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, depression, or other mental health difficulties, is available for you. We can get you in touch with professionals whose expert treatment is tailored to meet your unique needs and assist you with your life challenges. No matter how difficult things may seem, suicide is not the answer - visit or call 1-888-988-2589, and find the help you deserve for your life.


For this project we queried and analysed data from the CDC Wonder related to “intentional self harm” (ICD10 - Codes: X60-X84).



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