Health

Suicide rates rose in 2021 during second year of pandemic reversing years of decline

An American took their own life every 10 minutes last year data reveals, reversing a two-year decline in the country’s suicide rate.

Statistics showed 47,644 Americans died by suicide in 2021, up four per cent from the previous 12-months and the second-highest tally over the last decade.

The most likely group to take their own lives were men over 75 years old, while young men aged 18 to 24 saw the sharpest rise by eight per cent in a year.

Experts today described the uptick as ‘disappointing’, but nothing like the ‘major escalation’ predicted when the Covid pandemic hit. They blamed a combination of higher gun ownership rates and job losses due to Covid among other factors.

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The White House is currently beefing up mental health services for the country with $1 billion over five years.

The data is provisional, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it likely already included nearly all suicides from last year. 

The above graph shows the suicide rate per 100,000 people by age group for men and women over the year 2020 (green) and 2021 (blue). It reveals an uptick in rates among men aged from 15 to 24 years, while for females it remains level

There are no figures for suicides by state last year. But the above map shows the rates for 2020, revealing that Wyoming and Montana had the highest suicide rates

The data was published today in a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

It was compiled after statisticians combed through death certificates from 2021 for all those that mentioned suicide.

The analysis looked at certificates submitted up to May this year, suggesting it likely included virutally all fatalities as these take about six months to be logged. But the CDC said some from drug poisonings may be missing as these take longer to report.

All American adults under 65 should be screened for anxiety, leading panel says

All Americans adults under the age of 65 should be screened for anxiety, a leading panel of U.S. doctors said earlier this month.

The U.S. Preventative Service Task Force published draft guidance making the recommendation, saying the evidence for benefits ‘outweighed’ any risks.

The group had been exploring guidance regarding anxiety screening since before Covid.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health complaints, affecting about 40 percent of US men and women, the task force said.

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America estimates nearly 20 percent of American suffer from an active anxiety disorder with women and people under the age of 45 at most risk. Around one-third of teens are also believed to be suffering from the condition.

The report found the rate of suicides was 14 per 100,000 people last year, also up four per cent from 13.5 the previous year.

It was higher for every month except January and February — when the country was still in the grips of the Covid pandemic — and July.

Men were more likely to die by suicide than women in 2021, but the rates rose for both genders.

Figures were not provided for which states saw the highest rates of suicide, or the method of suicide. (MAYBE REMOVE?)

But last year they were highest in Wyoming — 30 per 100,000 people — and Montana — 26.1 per 100,000. At the other end of the scale they were lowest in New Jersey (7.1), New York (8) and Massachusetts (8.4).

The CDC did not suggest why suicides rose last year, have risen last year, but experts said it was likely down to a combination of several factors.

Commenting on the figures Dr Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the Washington Post: ‘A four per cent rise is certainly disappointing.

‘However, what had been predicted at the beginning of the pandemic was that there would be a major escalation.’

Experts did not blame a single factor for the uptick, but warned it was likely down to a multitude of causes.

One suggested it may be due to a rise in gun ownership, but this was not substantiated by surveys which suggest it remains at around 42 per cent.

Others pointed to rising mental health problems, losses of jobs and loved ones due to the pandemic and the influence of social media to explain the rise. 

Jane Pearson, an adviser on suicide at the National Institute of Mental Health, said: ‘You can have people exposed to the same stressors and for the most part, most people are not killing themselves.

‘People with mental disorders are at higher risk, but we also know that if people can manage their mental disorders, they are at lower risk.’

The above graph shows the total number of suicides by month for the year 2020 (green) and 2021 (blue). It shows that the number of suicides last year was only lower than the previous one in January and February and July

The above graph shows the total number of suicides by month for the year 2020 (green) and 2021 (blue). It shows that the number of suicides last year was only lower than the previous one in January and February and July

The above shows the number of suicides over the last two years as a rate, and for the years 2020 (green) and 2021 (blue)

The above shows the number of suicides over the last two years as a rate, and for the years 2020 (green) and 2021 (blue)

Experts predicted at the start of the pandemic that it may lead to a surge in suicide rates after many were asked to remain home.

But instead initially the opposite happened with suicide rates dropping over the first year to their lowest level in four years.

It was suggested that this may be due to people spending more time with their families, and having more social support from others also staying at home.

The White House is aiming to expand mental health provisions, particularly for young people, unveiling another $1 billion in proposed funding for the next five years.

But many proposals are still making their way through Congress. 

  • If you or a loved one needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 

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