US suicide rates at a more than 80-year high: Expert talks risk factors and solutions
Since the turn of the century, US suicide rates have increased almost every year, discusses The Brink – delivering the latest research news from Boston University. Sadly, deaths by suicide are now at their highest in over 80 years, as per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, the professional number of fatalities from suicide was just below 50,000 or 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people. The figures represented a 3% increase from 2021. That level is unmatched since 1941, when the US was on the precipice of WWII.
Older US adults at particularly high risk
There is a shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as the latest numbers represented a drop in the suicide rate among youngsters – by 18% among 10- to 14-year-olds and by 9% among 15- to 24-year-olds. But older adults remained at particularly high risk.
In order to get a better understanding of the situation and find out what more the country could be doing to manage the risks, The Brink spoke with Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University School of Public Health associate professor of health law, policy and management.
Triggers, suicide prevention, US gun laws
The expert highlighted several factors behind the steadily rising suicide rates. She said not every victim has been experiencing depression or another mental health condition, but these are generally correlated. She noted financial stress, uncertainty and even loneliness.
In addition, Lipson said one cannot discuss suicide and suicide prevention without talking about gun laws. In the US, a concerning number of deaths by suicide are with firearms and reducing access to guns can be an important way to prevent people from dying.
Don’t put too much value on just one year of data
The discussions also touched the decline in fatalities among young people. The expert said: “I’m always hopeful that there will be indications of positive trends in mental health, but I think it might be overstating to say that there has been a significant decrease.”
The transition from 2021 to 2022 saw a small change: from 6.1 to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 female 15 to 24. But it’s a change in the right direction. Lipson stressed the need to not put too much value on just one year of data. She said she would like to see that trend continue.