U.S. suicide rates rose again after two years of decline, and gun-related suicides and homicides continued to see ‘worrying’ increases in 2021, two new CDC reports found, leading experts to say “[t]there’s no doubt that we’re living through a mental health crisis in this country.”
US sees suicide rate rise after 2 years of decline
According to a new analysis from the CDC, the overall suicide rate in the United States increased by 4% in 2021, the first increase in two years. The analysis is based on interim data that includes more than 99% of death records expected in 2021, and its findings are expected to align with the year’s final data once it is released.
Overall, 47,646 suicide deaths were recorded in 2021, compared to 45,979 in 2020. Although the total number of monthly suicides was lower in January, February and July 2021 compared to the same months in 2020, all others had higher suicide rates.
Currently, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34. In 2021, the suicide rate increased for all age groups between 15 and 74 years old. People aged 15 to 24 had the largest increase in suicide rates at 8%, followed by individuals aged 25 to 34 at 4%.
Men had nearly four times the suicide rate of women. In 2021, there were 38,025 suicides among men compared to 9,621 among women. Men between the ages of 15 and 24 also experienced the largest increase in the suicide rate at 8%.
According to Sally Curtin, statistician at the CDC National Center for Health Statistics who wrote the report, it was “encouraging” to see suicide rates drop from 2018 to 2020, but the trend has since reversed and “we’re almost back to where we were in 2018, when suicides peaked at 48,344.
“There is no doubt that we are going through a mental health crisis in this country,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and addiction at the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration. “Largely due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, which continues to have ripple effects, we are seeing increased levels of anxiety and depression in children, as well as adults, and an increase in substance use.”
Gun-related suicides and homicides are also on the rise
In a separate CDC analysis, researchers found that rates of firearm-related suicides and homicides rose 8% between 2020 and 2021, reaching the highest levels in 30 years.
For the analysis, the researchers used final 2020 mortality data and 2021 preliminary data from the National Vital Statistics System, as well as all-cause homicide and suicide rate data from the United States. Census Bureauto estimate increases in firearm-related homicides and suicides.
From 2020 to 2021, firearm-related homicides among people aged 10 and older increased from 19,383 to 20,966, an increase of 8.3%. Firearm-related suicides also increased by 8.3% during this period, from 24,292 to 26,320.
“An 8% increase in firearm suicides over one year is a very large increase,” said Ari Davis, policy adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, which did not participate in the CDC study. “It’s very worrying.”
Rates of firearm-related homicides have increased across all racial and ethnic groups, with non-Hispanic black people ages 10 to 24 experiencing the highest rates. Across all age groups, adults aged 25 to 44 had the highest firearm homicide rates.
When it comes to gun-related suicides, the researchers noted that there was a “different pattern” in age demographics. The highest firearm suicide rates among people younger than 46 occurred among American Indians or Alaska Natives, while the highest rates among people over 45 years were among white adults.
According to Thomas Simon, a CDC researcher National Center for Injury Prevention and Control who led the study, it is currently unclear what is behind the increase in gun-related deaths, but the pandemic, as well as mental stressors, economic stressors, social isolation , etc., may contribute to the increase.
Additionally, Simon noted that racial and ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately affected by these increases in gun-related deaths. “This is an example of an unacceptable disparity that continues to go in the wrong direction,” he said.
To help prevent gun violence in the future, Simon said it was important to meet the needs of those most at risk of violence. Some promising approaches include awareness programs that “change[e] norms” around violence and hospital approaches, such as those of the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention. (Rabin, New York Times, 10/6; Firth, MedPage today10/7 ; Chen, Axios, 9/30; Melillo, “Changing America”, The hill, 9/30; Firth, MedPage today10/7 ; Edwards, NBC News, 9/30; Bernstein, Washington Post09/30)