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CDC: Suicide Rates Increase For All Age Groups in 1999-2017; Overall Rate Increased 33%, and 53% in Women. At the same time, drug overdose deaths have increased as much as six-fold in some age groups.


A CDC report, released today, shows that suicides have increased by an age-adjusted 33% from 1999 to 2017.  Suicides increased most dramatically for both sexes in the age 45-65 group.  The only group for which rates did not increase was for males over 75– the category that already had the highest rates among both men and women of all ages.

Suicides were most common in rural counties, and least common in metropolitan areas– a difference of 1.8 times.  Rates in women were highest at 45-64 and decreased in older age groups; in men, rates increased with age steadily.

The data show significant risks for suicide in all age groups, both men and women.  The highest risks are among women aged 45-64 and among men aged 75 and over.  Men have higher suicide rates in all age groups.  The highest rate among women in 2017 was 9.7 per 100,000 (aged 45-64) and among men, 39.7 per 100,000 (aged 75 and over.)  Rates for men aged 15-74 gradually increased with age, and the highest rate was in those 75 and over.  Rates for women peaked in the 45-64 age group dramatically; in men, a slight increase was seen in those 45-64 and a small decrease in those 65-74.  Women’s rates decreased in the oldest age group (75 and over) but rates were highest in the oldest men.

There has been no explanation for the increases in suicide rates, which occurred along the same time period as a dramatic increase in drug overdose death rates.  There was a 6-fold increase in drug overdose deaths among people aged 45-64 over the period 1999-2017 and a 3-fold increase in overdose death rates overall in that eighteen years.

In 2016, there were 63,600 deaths from drug overdoses, both suicidal and unintentional.  There were 44,965 suicide deaths, of which 6,698 were “poisonings”.  Apparently, about 58,355 of the overdose deaths were concluded to be unintentional.  There is some overlap between these two causes of death; in individual cases, it may be difficult to determine whether the drug overdose was accidental or intentional.

The latest year for statistics on gun-related deaths was 2016; approximately 39,000 people were killed by guns, of which about 13,362 were homicides and most of the rest– 26,000– suicides.  In 2016, the FBI reported a total of 17,250 homicides, an 8.6% increase from the year before.

We are at a loss to explain these increases, much less to influence them.  It is tempting to describe these findings as being in relation to the disintegration of society.  If this were so, then homicide rates should have increased, but they have remained stable over the last twenty years at a significantly lower level than in 1980.  Perhaps there is an increase in stress, hopelessness, and financial ruin.  Then the explanation would lie in the fact that median wages have not significantly increased in 30 years and wealth inequality has dramatically increased.

Then the way to counter this problem is to address wealth inequality.  The simplest way would be to go back to a steeply progressive income tax schedule, with estate taxes to deter the hereditary accumulation of wealth.  Attempts to address this problem are likely to be strenuously opposed by the wealthy.  Nonetheless, the simple logic of this action will redound to increases in wealth for everyone– economic growth will be sure to increase, as has been shown by historical rates of growth that increase under high-tax regimes.  Tax cuts and increases in wealth inequality are hostile to maintenance of infrastructure (which impacts quality of life for all but the most wealthy) and historically have not increased economic growth.  The only thing that increases with tax cuts is the national debt.

(photo courtesy of and mohamed_hassan)

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