Suicide Deaths Rise, Reversing 2 Years of Decline

The US suicide rate rose in 2021, reaching its highest level since 2018 and reversing 2 consecutive years of decline, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A total of 48,183 people died by suicide in the US in 2021, a rate of 14.1 per 100,000, up roughly 4% from 2020, when 45,979 people died by suicide (13.5 per 100,000), researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report in a data brief published online April 13.

The suicide rate in 2021 neared the peak rate of 14.2 per 100,000 seen in 2018, when there were 48,344 suicide deaths. The 4% increase in the suicide rate in 2021 was the largest annual increase over the past 20 years.

Suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in the US in 2021. It was the tenth leading cause in 2019 and the twelfeth leading cause in 2020.

Suicide is also the second leading cause of death in people aged 10 to 34 years and the fifth leading cause in people aged 35 to 54 years, the CDC says.

In 2021, the suicide death rate was four times higher among men than women, in line with several years prior.

Between 2020 and 2021, the suicide rate among male persons rose significantly among all age groups (15–24, 25–44, 65–74, and 75+ years). The observed increase among female persons between 2020 and 2021 was significant only for those aged 75 years and older.

Suicide rates increased significantly from 2020 to 2021 among American Indian or Alaska Native, Black, and White male persons. For the same period, rates significantly increased for Black and White female persons.

Among male and female individuals, the highest rates of suicide in 2021 were for American Indian or Alaska Native people compared with other groups.

Troubled Teens

In a separate data brief, CDC researchers report on emergency department (ED) visits for suicidal ideation in the US between 2016 and 2020.

Of note, it finds that teenagers aged 14 to 18 years were most likely to visit the ED for suicidal thoughts between 2016 and 2020. Visit rates were higher among teenage girls than teenage boys.

According to the report, 1 in 5 high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021.

The findings align with a CDC report released earlier this year that showed that teenage girls experienced the highest levels of sadness and sexual violence in a decade. Nearly 3 in 5 girls report feeling persistently sad or hopeless, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

A separate report released last fall shone a light on the toll the pandemic and other stressors have taken on the mental health of US children and adolescents over the past 6 years.

The report indicates a dramatic increase in the use of acute care services for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, especially among teens and preteens, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

When the report was released, Anish Dube, MD, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Children, Adolescents, and Their Families, said the findings are “concerning, though unsurprising.

“They confirm what those of us in clinical practice have experienced in the last several years. The need for mental health services continues to rise every year, while access to adequate help remains lacking,” Dube told Medscape Medical News.

CDC. NCHS Data Briefs. Published online April 13, 2023. Data Brief 463,  Full text; Data Brief 464,  Full text

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