The suicide rate in the US continues to climb, and is rising especially sharply among middle-aged white Americans.
The suicide rate has jumped 24 percent since 1999, to 13 per 100,000 people, with the steepest growth in the years since 2006, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been dramatic increases especially among the middle aged, both women and men.
“It was really jaw-dropping to see those numbers,” said Katherine Hempstead, a demographer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Though she was not involved in the CDC study, her previous research has focused on the impact of work and finances on suicide in middle age.
“People had been seeing rising rates in that group, but it’s still growing,” she said. “A lot of it might have been related to the recession, but we’re still seeing it, even with the economic recovery.”
Firearm deaths were the top suicide type among men; poisoning was the most common method of suicide among women and girls.
The growth is particularly notable because suicide rates had been declining from 1986 to 1999, dropping by 18 percent during that period.
Despite the grim numbers, Hempstead is hopeful.
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“After the period of this study, between 2014 and 2016, millions of people gained access to health care under the Affordable Care Act,” Hempstead said. “Before then, a lot of people had needed mental health care and couldn’t get it.
“And with the stigma about getting help for mental health going away,” she added, “it would be wonderful if we could see more people get help.”