Suicide rates among middle-aged white men and women are increasing - and we don't know why. A report published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, shows that after a decade long decrease in suicides the numbers are climbing. The suicide rate for Asians and Native Americans has remained stable, and declined in blacks.
One of the researchers, Susan P.Baker, M.P.H., a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, stated that white people in the 40-64 age category, "recently emerged as a high-risk group for suicide." Professor Baker is perplexed over why suicide rates are increasing in an age group usually noted for comparative stability. "Were they depressed, was this impulsive? A lot more information is needed," she said.
Suicide trends do tend to fluctuate. With men, for example, the suicide rate is known to correspond with economic trends. Seetal Dodd, Ph.D, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, is quoted by CNN.com as saying, "there is a considerable risk that the current economic situation may result in a further spike in the suicide rate for men of working age."
Between 1999 to 2005, the rate of suicides in the United States increased by 0.7 percent. However, white middle-aged women showed an annual increase of 3.9 percent, and middle-aged white men a 2.7 percent increase. The most common method of suicide was use of a firearm. Hanging accounted for 22 percent of all suicides by 2005.
Alan L. Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, says, "suicide rates vary and until you have a clear and dramatic difference, it's awfully hard to know what's really going on. " Berman, cited in the Washingtonpost.com points out that rates of suicide in older people are decreasing, yet we know as little about why this is happening as we do why rates in middle-aged people are increasing. Berman's best explanation revolves around the "baby boomer" generation and the fact that this represents a very large proportion of the overall population.
The authors of the study suggest ways of protecting against suicide. These include the development of new coping skills, strong family support, high-quality mental health services, and adhering to cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide.
Published On: October 22, 2008