Saturday, April 30, 2016

US Suicide Rates Rising

Overall US life expectancy is rising, but US suicide rates are also rising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently published some short "Data Briefs" showing the patterns. In terms of age groups, suicide rates are up for all age groups except for those over 75 years of age. By ethnicity, the increases in suicide rates are largely explained by a rise in suicides in the white population. In terms of methods of suicide, the share of suicides by firearms is falling, while the share by suffocation is rising.

I won't offer any instant-insight analysis here about deeper meanings and policy implications. My heart just goes out to those who have committed suicide, and to everyone who has lost a dear one to suicide. But here are some figures to illustrate the patterns. Sally C. Curtin, Margaret Warner, and Holly Hedegaard wrote "Increase in Suicide in the United States, 1999–2014 ," as National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief #241 (April 2016). The overall trend of suicides (adjusted for shifts in the age of the population) looks like this;

The breakdown by age group shows that suicide rates have risen among all under-75 age groups, but the highest suicide rates are in the 45-64 age bracket, and that's also where the biggest increases in the suicide rates have occurred. The first figure shows the rates for females; the second for males.

The same three authors also wrote "Suicide Rates for Females and Males by Race and Ethnicity: United States, 1999 and 2014." The abbreviation API refers to Asian or Pacific Islanders, and the abbreviation AIAN refers to American Indian or Alaska Native. Of course, a much larger share of the US population is white than in the American Indian/Alaska Native category, so the rise in the suicide rate among whites is the primary driver of the rise in the overall suicide rate. The first figure shows suicide rates for females, and the second for males.

Finally, the share of suicides in which a firearm was used remains large, but has declined over time, while the share of suicides involving suffocation has risen.