The economic and emotional costs of suicidal behavior among U.S. families, communities, and society have become a serious public health concern. America’s suicide trend was on the decline during the early 90s, but since then the rates of self-destruction have skyrocketed to a 30-year high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 41,000 Americans taking their own lives each year and more than 494,000 Americans receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries.The CDC report reveals a 24 percent increase in suicide between 1999 and 2014, rising from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 people. The average annual percent increase was 1 percent per year from 1999 through 2006, but it increased to 2 percent per year from 2006 through 2014. 

Suicide rates were especially high for teen girls and men and women under 75 years old, The New York Times reported. In teens, there was a 200 percent jump among girls aged 10 to 14, and a 43 percent increase in men aged 45 and 64.

"You can't just say it's confined to one age group or another for males and females. Truly at all ages people are at risk for this, and our youngest have some of the highest percent increases,” Sally Curtin, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the CDC, told NPR.

The second largest jump was recorded in middle-aged women between the ages of 45 to 64 — it was 63 percent higher than it was in 1999. For women aged 15 to 24, 25 to 44, and 65 to 74, there were average increases from 31 and 53 percent, respectively.

While men aged 75 and over also had high suicide rates, there were fewer deaths, from 42.4 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 38.8 in 2014. Meanwhile, teen boys also saw high rates of suicide, up by 37 percent since 1999; and yet, they had the lowest number of deaths reported for all age groups among men.

“It’s really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group,” Katherine Hempstead, a senior adviser for health care at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told the Times. Hempstead conducted a study last year that helped identify a link between suicides in middle age and rising rates of distress about jobs and personal finances.

Some say the decrease in suicide deaths from the late 80s through the 90s is partially a result of more effective antidepressants, with fewer side effects, NPR reported. But with the economic stagnation that followed in later years, more people were left out of jobs and probably had a hard time accessing these drugs, and overall health care and treatment, NPR reported. The  2014 study that linked 10,000 suicides in Western to economic turmoil between the years 2008 and 2010 corroborates this speculation.

“This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health,” Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard and the author of Our Kids, told the Times.

The significant increase in women committing suicide may have narrowed the gap in suicide rates between men and women, but men still die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Source: Curtin S, Warner M, Hedegaard H. Increase in Suicide in the United States, 1999–2014. NCHS Data Brief No. 241. 2016.