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Suicide Rates Rise Sharply Middle-Aged Americans Over Last Decade, CDC Says

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May 02, 2013 06:01 PM EDT
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A hearse is seen here at a funeral in this file photo. (Photo : Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The recent decade saw the mortgage crisis and the economic recession leaving many Americans without a job, home or even both. The rise in economic instability led to a sharp rise in suicide rates among middle-age Americans.

The suicide rate among American aged 35 to 64 rose 28 percent between 1999 and 2010, but changed little for older and younger people which are usually more susceptible to suicide related deaths. The number of suicides among people in their 50s doubled in that time frame.

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The annual rate of suicide rose 28 percent among Americans aged 35 to 64 during the study period, but changed little for older and younger people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group. Their suicide rate jumped 40 percent between 1999 and 2010.

The U.S. economy experienced financial turmoil during the decade, briefly in 2001 and more severely during the so-called Great Recession of December 2007-June 2009 that sent the unemployment rate as high as 10 percent.

According to a report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the May 3 issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more people die now from suicide than car accidents.

In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides. Suicide was the nation's 10th leading cause of death, the CDC said. The overall national suicide rate climbed from 12 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 in 2010. That was a 15 percent increase.

"Traditionally, we focus suicide prevention on adolescents and the older retired population, but the results of this study really emphasized the public health burden faced by the middle aged population," said Dr. Thomas Simon, a researcher with the CDC's Injury Center.

"There are unique risks at each developmental stage," said Simon, pointing to bullying and confusion about sexuality in teenagers and getting used to retirement for seniors. "And then there are some particularly salient challenges for the middle-aged group: divorce, job loss, and dual care-giving."

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