Dramatic Rise in Suicide Rate for Americans 40-64, but not for other Age Groups

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Great Recession that began at the end of the George W. Bush presidency is finally over, but its effects are still being learned. One of its results is an increase in suicides among those hit the hardest by the downturn.


Suicide rates have increased dramatically among those aged 40 to 64, while remaining stable for other age groups. In a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Katherine A. Hempstead and Julie A. Phillips found that the suicide rate among middle-aged men and women has increased since 1999, which a sharp increase after 2007, just as the recession hit. “Evidence suggests that the downturn disproportionately affected the middle-aged in terms of house values, household finances, and hits to retirement accounts,” the study said. “... The hardship and feelings of failure or hopelessness associated with these conditions are compounded by the fact that middle-aged adults are more likely than others to be family breadwinners and supporting dependents.”


Using the National Violent Death Reporting System, which collects data from 16 states, Hempstead and Phillips found that the suicide rate per 100,000 among the targeted age group went from 15.5 in 2005 to 18.2 in 2010. The unemployment rate in those states increased as well, from 5.1% to 9.6%. The rise was most dramatic in Rhode Island, where the unemployment rate more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, as did the suicide rate for those aged 40 to 64.


When studying the reasons for a suicide, the authors found “patterns suggest that the recent rise in middle-aged suicide rates may be related to increases in suicides where external circumstances [such as job or financial problems] are present.” The study even went into detail on the method of suicide, with suffocation increasing as a method among those 40 to 64.


The study concluded that the “sharpest increase in external circumstances appears to be temporally related to the worst years of the Great Recession, consistent with other work showing a link between deteriorating economic conditions and suicide. External circumstances also have increased in importance among those aged [65 years and younger]. Financial difficulties related to the loss of retirement savings in the stock market crash may explain some of this trend.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged 40–64 Years: The Role of Job and Financial Circumstances (by Katherine A. Hempstead and Julie A. Phillips, American Journal of Preventative Medicine)

Suicides Rise In Middle-Aged Men, And Older Men Remain At Risk (by Alison Bruzek, NPR)

86 Firearm Deaths a Day in U.S.; 60% are Suicides (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

More Americans Now Die from Suicide than from Auto Accidents (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment