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Baby boomer suicide rates rise, including in Minnesota

The incidence of suicide has risen sharply in recent years among Americans aged 35 to 64 while staying essentially unchanged among younger and older demographic groups, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Using 1999-2010 mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System, the CDC researchers found that the suicide rate increased 28.4 percent among people in the 35-to-64-years age range, rising from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 persons in 2010.

That compared to a 7 percent increase during that same period among young people aged 10 to 34 and a 4.9 percent decrease among people aged 65 and older. The changes in those age groups were considered statistically insignificant, however.

The CDC researchers cite three possible reasons for the suicide-rate increases among 34-to-64-year-olds: the recent economic downturn, the easier availability of opioid prescription drugs, and some as yet unidentified factor that may be unique to the life experiences of the “baby boomer” generation. As the researchers point out in their study, baby boomers had an unusually high suicide rate during their adolescent years as well.

Minnesota’s numbers

 “The increases [among the 34-to-64-year-olds] were geographically widespread and occurred in states with high, as well as average and low suicide rates,” write the CDC researchers in an editorial that accompanies the report.

Minnesota was one of the states with a relatively low suicide rate (16.0 per 100,000 persons in 2010) that still experienced a significant increase in suicides — 34.5 percent — among people aged 34 to 64 during the 12 years of the study.

Indeed, the Midwest as a whole had the greatest increase in suicide rates among 34-to-64-year-olds during the 12 years of the study — from 12.7 to 17.3 per 100,000, for an increase of 35.6 percent.

suicide methods chart
Source: CDC
Most of the suicides in the study, particularly those
committed by men, involved a firearm.

Most common method: gun

Most of the suicides in the study, particularly those committed by men, involved a firearm. The second and third most common suicide methods were poisoning (usually by a drug overdose) and suffocation (predominantly by hanging).

All three of these methods increased significantly among 34-to-64-year-old Americans between 1999 and 2010, but suffocation deaths increased the most, by 81.3 percent. By comparison, suicide-by-poisoning increased by 24.4 percent and suicides involving a firearm increased by 14.4 percent.

More Americans now die from suicide each year than from motor vehicle crashes, the CDC researchers point out in the report.

Other details

A closer look at the report’s numbers reveals that the greatest increases in suicides occurred among people in their 50s. The CDC researchers found that 48 percent more people aged 50 to 54 and 49 percent more people aged 55 to 59 committed suicide in 2010 than in 1999.

The increases were also greater for women: 31.5 percent compared to 27.3 percent for men. But men are still much more likely than women to take their own lives. In 2010, the suicide rate among men aged 35 to 64 was 27.3 per 100,000, while for women in that age group it was 8.1 per 100,000.

The racial/ethnic groups with the greatest increases were Native Americans (65.2 percent) and white non-Hispanics (40.4 percent).

Needed: more prevention efforts

“Most suicide research and prevention efforts have focused on youths and older adults,” write the CDC researchers in the editorial. “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. Prevention efforts are particularly important for this cohort because of its size, history of elevated suicide rates, and movement toward older adulthood, the period of life that has traditionally been associated with the highest suicide rates.”

You can download and read the report at the CDC website.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/03/2013 - 10:16 pm.

    More Prevention Neede, BUT

    I believe we also need to realize that our society has been restructured so that people in that age group where suicide increased the most have found themselves in a hopeless situation in response to the economic crash of 2008 and the subsequent downturn and “jobless recovery:”

    These are people who have followed the rules, been responsible citizens and reliable workers, and generally done all the things society required of them,…

    but have nevertheless found themselves unemployable due to a wide variety of factors, including the disappearance of their former jobs, and the view of far too many employers that such people are too backward in their relationship to technology to be useful in the workplace,…

    and the reality that going back to school at 50+ years of age is unlikely to render them unemployable despite new certifications, nor are the required hits to their retirement funds likely to be paid back.

    Any unpaid balances on student loans people take out will be subtracted from their social security once they qualify for it (which at 50+ years of age can be a strong factor in NOT going back to school).

    Those single people of modest means without dependent children (mostly men) have also found that they were unable to afford healthcare nor health insurance of any kind; even state programs (although the affordable care act will remedy this to some extent in a few months). Trips to the doctor are out of the question for many of them, as is the continuation of medications they may already have been taking, since eventually their doctors will demand a return visit in order to renew a prescription.

    Far too many of these folks find basic survival difficult. Despite the good, reliable, responsible, by-the-book people they have been, society seems to regard them as completely expendable.

    ALL of us humans deserve better than this.

    We should not be surprised that some of the folks facing such circumstances, decide to check out early.

    Indeed, far too many among us are only a pink slip away from ending up there ourselves, no matter how wisely we believe we have been preparing for “a rainy day.”

    The truth is, there is NO safety net for this age group, especially for men without dependent children.

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