Suicide Rates Climb for Middle-Age Women

by Dorian Martin Patient Advocate

Being a middle-age woman brings many changes in life - children moving out on their own, caregiving duties for parents as they age and eventually die, as well as experiencing all of the changes that happen due to menopause and natural aging. Then add in the economic downturn and other challenges that arise and it's not totally surprising that middle-age women may feel depressed at times.

However, it seems that many women may be more than just depressed; instead, they may be suicidal. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that suicide deaths have now surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the United States. And an increasingly number of those suicides are by Americans between the ages of 35-64. While rates among this group increased in all states, there were statistically significant increases in 39 states.

Key findings in the CDC report include:

  • Suicide rates among women between the ages of 35 and 64 years of age increased 32 percent.

  • The greatest increases in suicide rates were among people who were 50-54 years of age (48 percent) and 55-59 years of age (49 percent).

  • Among racial/ethnic groups, the greatest increases in suicide rates were among white non-Hispanics (40 percent) and American Indian and Alaska Natives (65 percent).

  • Suicide rates increased 23 percent or more across all four major U.S. regions.

  • Middle-aged women who committed suicide often opted for poisoning (drug overdose) and firearms. Overall, suicide rates increased 81 percent for hanging/suffocation, as compared to 14 percent for firearms and 24 percent for poisoning.

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, factors for suicide that indicate that a person may consider, attempt or die by suicide include:

  • Mental disorders, especially mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders.

  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders.

  • A sense of hopelessness.

  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies.

  • History of trauma or abuse.

  • Major physical illnesses.

  • Previous attempt at suicide.

  • Family history of suicide.

  • Job or financial loss.

  • Loss of relationship.

  • Easy access to lethal means.

  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation.

  • Stigma associated with asking for help.

  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment.

  • Cultural and religious beliefs.

  • Exposure to others (where personally known or via media and Internet) who have died through suicide.

Warning signs that someone is considering suicide include:

  • A person saying they want to die or kill themselves.

  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as buying a gun.

  • Describing feelings of hopelessness and having no reason to live.

  • Talking about feeling trapped or having an unbearable pain.

  • Talking about being a burden to others.

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs.

  • Reckless behavior or acting anxious or agitated.

  • Sleeping too much or too little.

  • Isolating themselves.

  • Exhibiting rage or talking about revenge.

  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

There also are protective factors for suicide. These include:

  • Effective clinical care for mental health, physical health and substance abuse.

  • Easy access to clinical interventions.

  • Restricted access to particularly lethal means of suicide.

  • Strong connections to family and community support.

  • Support through relationships with medical and mental health care providers.

  • Ability to solve problems and resolve conflict in a non-violent way.

  • Cultural and religious beliefs that encourage self-preservation.

So what should you do if you are a middle-age woman who is considering suicide - or know someone who is?
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline encourages you to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Your call will be routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area code where you will receive help.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). CDC finds suicide rates among middle-aged adults increased from 1999-2010.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (nd.). Website.

Dorian Martin
Meet Our Writer
Dorian Martin

Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.