Troubles Getting Mid-Lifers Down

Suicide rates have increased among baby boomers over the past decade

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Baby boomer suicide rates have been on the rise. In light of that information, the CDC is calling for greater community support and access to mental health services to reduce rates in the future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a report on suicide rates among middle-aged adults in the United States.

The report said that suicide rates have increased significantly over the past 12 years.

The study authors suggested the increase could be due to economic, job and home-related stressors.

"Call 1-800-SUICIDE for immediate help."

Researchers at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, led by Thomas R. Simon, PhD, have released data on suicide rates among middle-aged adults in the US.

“Suicide is an increasing public health concern. In 2009, the number of deaths from suicide surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the United States,” said the study authors.

For the study, the researchers looked carefully at data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which provided information on deaths in the US from 1999 to 2010.

The researchers found that suicide rates among middle-aged Americans increased 28 percent from 1999 to 2010.

Categorized by race, the greatest increases in suicide rates were found among American Indian/Alaska Natives at 65 percent and among whites at 40 percent.

Over the course of 12 years, the suicide rate went up by 32 percent among women and by 27 percent among men.

Suicide rates among men between the ages of 50 and 54 years increased by 50 percent. The rate increased by 48 percent in men between 55 and 59 years of age. For women between the ages of 60 and 64 years, the suicide rate increased by 60 percent.

The researchers found that the rate of suicide among American Indian/Alaska Native women had increased 81 percent, and for men it had increased 60 percent.

“The findings underscore the need for suicide preventive measures directed toward middle-aged populations,” said the study authors.

The greatest increases in methods for suicide were found in suffocation (81 percent), poisoning (24 percent) and firearm (14 percent). People who died by suffocation primarily did so by hanging. Suicide by poisoning was primarily carried out by an illegal drug or prescription medication overdose.

The study authors listed the following as potential risk factors that could contribute to suicidal thoughts or actions: money trouble, unemployment, relationship trouble, intimate partner violence, stress involved with caring for children or aging parents and personal health problems.

According to the authors, possible reasons for the increase in suicide rates could be due to the recent economic downturn and increased availability of prescription opioids.

The authors noted that the baby boomer generation of Americans had higher suicide rates in their adolescence compared to other generations and this could contribute to the increased rates in their middle-aged years as well.

“Most suicide research and prevention efforts have focused on youths and older adults. Although the analysis in this report does not explain why suicide rates are increasing so substantially among middle-aged adults, the results underscore the importance of prevention strategies that address the needs of persons aged 35-64 years, which includes the baby boomer cohort,” said the study authors.

The authors suggested that suicide prevention strategies should work to enhance social support and connections within the community, increase access to mental health services and reduce social stigma associated with seeking help for mental health.

The cost for mental health services may vary widely, based on insurance coverage and location, between $0 to $150 per session. Contacting the national suicide hotline is toll-free.

This study was published in May in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

No outside funding sources were used. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 6, 2013
Last Updated:
October 30, 2013