In August, the CDC released its report on suicide in the United States. The provisional estimates released indicate that suicide deaths increased in 2022, rising from 48,183 deaths in 2021 to an estimated 49,449 deaths in 2022, an increase of approximately 2.6%. At the same time, life expectancy has hit the lowest point in nearly two decades.
According to the CDC numbers, adults 65 and older saw the largest increase in suicide deaths of any age group from 2021 to 2022, with an 8.1% rise. More men died by suicide than women, following a trend from 2021, but both men and women saw their suicide death numbers increase by 2.3% and 3.8% respectively.
Also according to the CDC, Americans who identify as White saw the largest number of deaths by suicide with 37,459, an increase of 2.1% from 2021. Most racial and ethnic groups saw an increase in suicide deaths, with Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders seeing the largest jump at 15.9%. However, The CDC found that those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native saw the largest percentage decrease in suicide deaths.
Specific data was as follows: Ages 10-24 years saw 7,126 suicide deaths in 2021 and 6,529 in 2022, a decrease of – 8.4%. In the age group 25-44 years the number was reported as 16,724 in 2021 and 16,843 in 2022, an increase of 0.7%.
The age group of 45-64 years increased 6.6% from 14,668 to 15,632. And the age group of ≥ 65 years increased 8.1% from 9,652 to 10,433.
Male suicide deaths were 38,358 in 2021 and 39,255 in 2022, an increase of 2.3%. Female suicide deaths were 9,825 and 10,194, an increase of 3.8%.
“Today’s report underscores the depths of the devastating mental health crisis in America. Mental health has become the defining public health and societal challenge of our time. Far too many people and their families are suffering and feeling alone,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A.
“These numbers are a sobering reminder of how urgent it is that we further expand access to mental health care, address the root causes of mental health struggles, and recognize the importance of checking on and supporting one another. If you or a loved one are in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, please know that your life matters and that you are not alone. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 for anyone who needs help.”
Suicide being one contributing factor, life expectancy for Americans has dropped for the second year in a row. PBS news reported the life expectancy dropped around the world in 2020 but that other countries rebounded while the United States continues on its downward course in life expectancy, hitting the lowest point in nearly two decades.
Dr. Stephen Woolf told PBS that life expectancy for the U.S. has actually been declining for decades. Back in the 1990s the pace of increase in life expectancy began to fall off and in 2010 it began to stop increasing all together, Woolf said.
“It’s being driven by an Increase in death rates in the young and middle-aged adults, 25 to 64,” Woolf said. “And most of those relate to the problems of drug overdose, suicides, alcohol related causes – these are sometimes called deaths of despair. Also metabolic problems related to obesity.”
In a report by the WSJ, authors noted that, “For decades, advances in healthcare and safety steadily drove down death rates among American children.
“In an alarming reversal, rates have now risen to the highest level in nearly 15 years, particularly driven by homicides, drug overdoses, car accidents and suicides,” authors noted.
“The uptick among younger Americans accelerated in 2020. Though COVID-19 itself wasn’t a major cause of death for young people.”
According to WSJ, researchers say social disruption caused by the pandemic exacerbated public health problems, including worsening anxiety and depression. More lethal narcotics also helped push up death rates.
“Between 2019 and 2020, the overall mortality rate for ages 1 to 19 rose by 10.7% and increased by an additional 8.3% the following year…That’s the highest increase for two consecutive years in the half century that the government has publicly tracked such figures,” reported WSJ.
“Covid, which surged to America’s number three cause of death during the pandemic, accounted for just 1/10 of the rise in mortality among young people in 2020, and 1/5 during 2021.”
Stephen Woolf told PBS, “There was something disturbing in the new data for 2021, that it showed this massive decrease in life expectancy. But it also showed an increase in death rates in children and teenagers. And an increase of that size has not been seen in my entire career,” he said.
“This upward trend is the result of four causes– suicides, homicides, drug overdoses and car accidents– mainly in young people 10 to 19 years old.”