Suicide rates in the United States have jumped by about 24 percent since 1999, signifying the highest surge in nearly three decades, an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) said there were suicide rate increases in every age group, except among older adults, from 1999 to 2014.
The rise was so widespread that it upped the country's suicide rate to 13 in every 100,000 people - the highest since 1986.
The overall suicide rate in the U.S. also rose by 2 percent each year since 2006, double the annual rise in the study's earlier period.
Suicide By Age Group, Race, Gender
Middle-aged Americans were particularly hit, revealing an abrupt increase in an age group whose rates had been either falling or stagnant since the 1950s.
When it comes to gender, women were steeply struck by the rise. For middle-aged women in the 45 to 64 age group, the suicide rate increased by 63 percent over the report's period.
For men in the same age range, the suicide rate went up by 43 percent, marking the sharpest increase for males in any age group.
NCHS researchers also detected an alarming rise in suicide rates among girls who were 10 to 14 years old. Although the suicide rate was low, it had tripled: from 50 in 1999, it rose to 150 in 2014.
Of all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., American Indians had the sharpest increase. Suicide rates for American Indian women rose by 89 percent, while it was 38 percent for men. For White middle-aged women, the rise was 80 percent.
On the other hand, the suicide rate declined for black men, as well as for men and women who are 75 years old and above.
More Than A Statistic
The statistics reflect the anguish and suffering those residents in the country feel.
Professor Julie Phillips, a sociologist at Rutgers University, said one possible contributor to the rising number was economic distress. She said people were growing with a certain expectation, and the country's Great Recession had changed that.
"Things aren't panning out the way people expect," said Phillips. "I feel for sure that has had an effect."
Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard University said the statistics is part of a larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between hopelessness, poverty, and health.
Suicide remains as one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country. Experts say efforts to prevent the act are "spotty."
Dr. Jane Pearson, who oversees the National Institutes of Health funding for research on suicide prevention, said there are effective treatments, but they have yet to figure out how to integrate them into health care systems so they are applied more automatically.
"We've got bits and pieces, but we haven't really put them all together yet," said Pearson.
Jill Harkavy-Friedman of the American Foundation said that they know suicide is a preventable mental health condition, but research and funding have yet to keep up with it.
"As the stigma dissipates, that is going to change," said Harkavy-Friedman, adding that money has to be put behind research.
Photo : Joshua Ganderson | Flickr