Suicide in the United States

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Total Suicides in the United States, 1981–2016. Data from CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.[1]
Crude suicide rate in the United States, 1981–2016. Data from CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.[1]
Age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States, 1981–2016. Data from CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.[1]
Age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States by race, 1981–2016. Data from CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.[1]
Crude suicide rate in the United States by age, 1981–2016. Data from CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.[1]

Suicide is a major national public health issue in the United States. In 2017, there were 47,173 recorded suicides,[2] up from 42,773 in 2014, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).[3][4][5] On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people, the highest rate recorded in 28 years.[6][7] Due to the stigma surrounding suicide, it is suspected that suicide generally is underreported.[8] In April 2016, the CDC released data showing that the suicide rate in the United States had hit a 30-year high,[9][10] and later in June 2018, released further data showing that the rate has continued to increase and has increased in every U.S. state except Nevada since 1999.[11][12] Surging death rates from suicide, drug overdoses and alcoholism, what researchers refer to as "deaths of despair", are largely responsible for a consecutive three year decline of life expectancy in the U.S;[13][14][15][16] this constitutes the first three year drop in life expectancy in the U.S. since the years 1915-1918.[15]

In 2015, suicide was the seventh leading cause of death for males and the 14th leading cause of death for females.[17] Additionally, it was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 34 and the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 14.[18] From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans aged 35 to 64 increased nearly 30 percent; the largest increases were among women aged 60 to 64, with rates rising 60 percent, then men in their fifties, with rates rising nearly 50 percent. [7] In 2008, it was observed that U.S. suicide rates, particularly among middle-aged white women, had increased, although the causes were unclear.[19]

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported that in 2016 suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., imposing a cost of $69 billion to the US annually.[8][17] Other statistics reported are:[8]

  1. The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.
  2. Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.
  3. On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
  4. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
  5. A firearm is used in almost 50% of all suicides.
  6. The rate of suicide is highest in middle age—white men in particular.

The U.S. government seeks to prevent suicides through its National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a collaborative effort of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration, and Indian Health Service.[20] Their plan consists of eleven goals aimed at preventing suicides.[21] Older adults are disproportionately likely to commit suicide;[22] some U.S. jurisdictions have laws against suicide or against assisting suicide. In recent years, there has been increased interest in rethinking these laws;[23] these policies focus on the recovery of the individual through the treatment of the mental disease. The aim is to assure the wellness and the health of the person affected as well as make sure that they recover and take advantage of their all potential.[24]

Suicide has been associated with tough economic conditions, including unemployment rate.[25]

There are significant variations in the suicide rates of the different states,[26] ranging from 28.24 per 100,000 people in Wyoming to 7.81 per 100,000 people in New York.[8]

Approximately half of suicides are committed using a firearm, accounting for two-thirds of all firearm deaths.[27] Firearms were used in 56.9% of suicides among males in 2016, making it the most commonly used method by them.[17]

National trends in suicide attempts in the United States[edit]

The spike in suicide rates in the United States during the 21st century has gained public and clinical attention. Studies have found that despite all efforts to minimize suicide rates, rates have steadily increased by approximately 2% per year from 2006 to 2014.[28]A national epidemiologic survey of 69 341 US adults found the percentage of adults attempting suicide increased from 0.62% in 2004 through 2005 to 0.79% in 2012 through 2013.[29] Because of this, clinicians aim to determine whether this is a coincident national increase in suicide attempts. In order to achieve this, trends in suicide attempts are characterized among sociodemographic and clinical groups, it was found that suicide attempts impact "younger adults with less formal education and those with antisocial personality disorder, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and a history of violence” at disproportional rates.[29] It is important for trends in suicide attempts to be investigated and researched for they help to determine the cause of the increase in suicide rates. Knowing the trends in suicide also allow preventative measures to be taken. Suicide prevention is possible through early identification and treatment of individuals deemed high risk.[30]

Suicide as a public health crisis[edit]

Suicide prevention has been thought of as the responsibility of mental health professionals within clinical settings between 2000-2010.[31]As of 2019, suicide prevention is being recognized as a public health responsibility rather than within clinical settings due to the trend in increasing suicide rates.[32]In 1960-2010, population-based risk reduction approaches have been used for other diseases such as myocardial infarction. However, as of 2019, the urgency of development of effective suicide prevention has been recognized by the CDC. While suicide is often thought of as an individual problem, suicides may impact families, communities, and society in general; the responsibility of public health would be to develop policies to reduce people’s risk of suicidal behavior through addressing factors at the individual to societal levels.[32]"Public health emphasizes efforts to prevent violence (in this case, toward oneself) before it happens. This approach requires addressing factors that put people at risk for, or protect them from, engaging in suicidal behavior."[32] The CDC has created a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline where they provide free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for people who are in need of such help, and best practices for professionals. [33] In May 2019, Bloomberg reported that in spite of the recent mental health crisis, insurance companies, including UnitedHealth Group, are doing what they can to limit coverage and deny claims for mental health related issues.[34]

A 2019 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research says there is a direct causal link between worker's wages and suicide rates, and that raising the minimum wage would result in a quick drop in the suicide rate.[14]

Number of suicides by age group and sex[edit]

CDC data on suicides by age group in 2015
CDC data on suicide rate by race and gender in 2015

The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) keeps data on U.S. suicides.

Number of suicides by age group and sex: USA, 2016.[35]
Age (years) 10 – 14 15 – 24 25 – 34 35 – 44 45 – 54 55 – 64 65 – 74 75+ Unknown All
Males 265 4575 5887 5294 6198 5745 3463 3291 2 34727
Females 171 1148 1479 1736 2239 2014 940 510 1 10238
Male/Female Ratio 1.5 4.0 4.0 3.0 2.8 2.9 3.7 6.5 1.0 3.4
Total 436 5723 7366 7030 8437 7759 4403 3801 3 44965

Based on the NVDRS 2016 data, the New York Times acknowledged that, among men, those over 65—who make up a smaller proportion of the population—are at greatest risk of death by suicide;[36] the NVDRS 2015 data showed that, among men of all races, men over 65 were the most likely to die of suicides (27.67 suicides per 100,000), closely followed by men 40–64 (27.10 suicides per 100,000). Men 20–39 (23.41 per 100,000) and 15–19 (13.81 per 100,000) were less likely to die of suicides.[37]


There have been many high-profile incidents in the United States in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s of individuals thought to be attempting "suicide by cop" or killing others before killing themselves. Examples include the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the 2010 Austin plane crash, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the 2014 Isla Vista killings.

Rates compared to other countries[edit]

Trend of suicide deaths from 1960 to 2007 for the nations of Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States
Suicide vs violent deaths 2016


By state[edit]

There are significant variations in the suicide rates of the different states.[26] A number of theories for these differences have been suggested, ranging from socioeconomics to access to firearms and isolation (low population densities),[38] and a study in 2011 found a correlation between altitude above sea level and suicide.[39]

College students[edit]

Suicide in the subgroup of college students is very prevalent. In the college population, suicide is the second highest cause of death.[41] Yet, the severity of this issue among the youth in college is underestimated. Many falsely believe that young people do not have thoughts about suicide. [42]The suicide rate for male students is about three times higher than for women.[43]The study of suicide rates and trends were not something very common in the past but is gaining more attention in 2019. Allan Schwartz, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Rochester and senior staff at the University Counseling Center, stated that the reported rates of suicide are not reflected in society. [42] In the fourteen years, from 1990 to 2004, about 1,404 college students committed suicide; this is about 6.5 percent of those who committed suicide nationwide. This accounts for half of the suicide rates across the entire U.S. population, at 12.6 percent. In 2014, the adjusted age rate was higher for male than female; the suicide rate for male was 20.7 percent and 5.8 for female. [43]Counseling services are critical and helpful in preventing people from committing suicide. However, currently, there is a deficit between the available resources and the number of students who need such counseling searches. [41] Students who do not go to counseling services are at 18 times more at risk of suicide compared to other students. If a college student has any suicidal thoughts, it is always critical to let others, such as members of the school, family, or friends know.[43]


A United States Army suicide prevention poster

A 2009 U.S. Army report indicates military veterans have double the suicide rate of non-veterans, and more active-duty soldiers have died from suicide than in combat in the Iraq War (2003–2011) and War in Afghanistan (2001–present).[44] Colonel Carl Castro, director of military operational medical research for the Army noted "there needs to be a cultural shift in the military to get people to focus more on mental health and fitness."[45] In 2012, the US Army reported 185 suicides among active-duty troops, exceeding the number of combat deaths in that year (176); this figure has significantly increased since 2001, when the number of suicides was 52.[46]


Attempted suicide rates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and adults in the U.S. are three times higher than national averages.[47]

Chronic pain[edit]

Patients with chronic pain are twice as likely to attempt suicide compared with those without chronic pain.[48]


Studies have found very high rates of suicide in people with autism spectrum disorders, including high functioning autism and what was formerly known as Asperger syndrome. Autism and particularly Asperger syndrome are highly associated with clinical depression and as many as 30 percent or more of people with Asperger syndrome also suffer from depression.[49]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Deaths From Drugs and Suicide Reach a Record in the U.S." The New York Times. March 7, 2019.
  3. ^ "Products – Data Briefs – Number 241 – April 2016". Retrieved 9 November 2017.
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  6. ^ Tavernise, Sabrina (22 April 2016). "U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High".
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