Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.


Published: May 2, 2013 328 Comments

Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.


What factors do you believe are contributing to the rising suicide rate?

Economic hopelessness. My brother committed suicide last July. He had just turned 60. He lost his IT job in the Great Recession in 2008. Despite hundreds of resumes being sent out, and a lifetime of IT experience, he got few interviews and no job offers. He spent down his 401(k) and when he died the only thing he owned was a beat-up car. We later found out he had a lot of credit card debt, with which he had tried to keep himself afloat. After four years of no job offers, unemployment running out, having no health insurance, etc., his dignity was shot. He had lost hope of ever working again. How I wish he had not committed suicide; how I would give anything and everything to have him back. I consider him one of the casualties of the Recession and when I read of the fat bonuses the banksters award themselves, I shake with rage that they have continued to prosper while people like my brother lost all hope and people like me lost a loved one.

May 2, 2013 at 5:50 p.m.

Shrink the jobs, multiply the guns, and widen the gap between rich and poor so far that the American dream of equal opportunity is a sad joke.

May 2, 2013 at 6:36 p.m.

I'm not at all surprised--and would expect the increase among 50+ men to be recession-based, given the much greater permanent unemployment in that cohort than in past recessions.

Losing your ability to provide for your family is devastating. If you're over 50, lose your job, can't find another, need to provide for your family and are fortunate enough to have substantial life insurance that has been in place long enough to pay off for suicide, it's not even an irrational choice. Not the choice most people would want to make, especially when you consider the emotional impact on children, spouse, other loved ones. But being an economic provider may come first in many men's minds.

May 2, 2013 at 6:43 p.m.

Just as younger generations have expectations of a certain quality of life that does not include endless work weeks with a minimal quality of life, so do middle-aged and older people have similar desires to have a cuturally enriched and pleasurable existence. When the reality of their lives does not meet their expectations they feel empowered to act.

May 2, 2013 at 6:48 p.m.

I'm 56, female, and also row the Too-Old-To-Even-Interview boat. My favorite turn-down lines are things like, "You're overqualified," and "This job takes alot of energy."

That said, my father worked for TWA for 36 years. They retired him on his 65th birthday but at least he had a career. Now all America demands is "jobs" - that 4-letter political campaign slogan.

Male or female, any age, people want to belong -- to each other, to their communities, to their "careers", to their dreams, to something. A "job" keeps you off the streets, but usually holds nothing better for the future. A "job" seems like what the 47% do, according to Romney and his friends, when they can't just sit on their behinds waiting for government handouts.

This country needs to take a long hard look at itself and its "definition" of capitalism and employment. Currently, it means disposability of workers on a whim. How can we ask our young people to be pioneers or adventurers or innovators or inventors when all the politicians can do is blather about "jobs." It is minimum wage thinking that produces minimum wage mentalities.

As the guy said who came to trim our trees the other day, "The problem with this country is no one gives a s--t about anything anymore." It was his opinion (with which I agree), not a whine or an excuse. We need to care again about who and what we are as people and a nation, and what we can be.

Careers, not jobs. Respect, not disposability

May 2, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.

As a geriatrician I have been expecting this for years. High unemployment, low savings rates, the end of the traditional pension and employer-sponsored health insurance all leave many in this age group looking at a long old age of destitution and dependence. Men especially will not stand for it. I meet people in their 50's and 60's every day who have negative net worth, underwater mortgages, have lost jobs and insurance. I have even had a few people refuse treatment for treatable diseases and enter Hospice to avoid the expense of end of life care-and, unlike suicides, their loved ones can still collect life insurance to help pay for their funerals. This is the kind of society we are now, winner take all and the devil take everyone else. We need another labor movement, but it will be too late for this cohort who actually believed the garbage they were fed about working hard always paying off.

May 2, 2013 at 8:58 p.m.

I have had many friends over the age of 50 who have considered suicide because of the economic situation. These are highly educated, professionals. The truth is, when people lose their job now it's hard to get another job. That's especially true if you are over age 50, and if you are over age 60 it's even worse.

Many people have lost great career positions and then struggled to find anything. In the meantime, they have gone through their savings and started pulling money out of their retirement accounts. Many people have nothing left.

No one wants to go homeless and die on the street like a dog. Therefore, many people view suicide as being a better option.

Most people aren't independently wealthy. If they lose their job and paycheck and run through their savings and retirement accounts to keep a roof over their head and food on the table in their 50s or 60s, then how do they continue to do that in their 70s or 80s? Going homeless becomes a matter of when, not if. I see elderly homeless people bedding down on sidewalks and parks every night here, along with families with little kids. But people over age 50 can't come back from homelessness. They will never be able to work again. It will never get better.

I think suicide will only become more prevalent as time goes on and more people over the age of 50 lose their job.

May 2, 2013 at 10:45 p.m.

I don't dare think about it. I'm all my kids have (husband is dead, bless his memory). I have been called for many, many interviews-- my keying speed and experience look really good-- but I don't get even the courtesy of rejection letters. We have run through the college CDs and are living on my husband's 401(k), which makes us ineligible for SNAP or Medicaid, or maybe it's just my fault that I could not bear to fill out the applications which ask for your car's VIN and for copies of your bank statements and any cash in the house, etc. I know that safeguards are necessary to keep out the cheaters, but the process seemed too humiliating and I gave up. When the 401(k) money is gone, then I will have to try again. I don't know how to navigate "the system" and the other system that I thought I knew, where you demonstrated your skills, proved your work ethic, earned certificates and degrees, then applied and got hired-- that system is apparently gone. I do not know what we are going to do.

May 2, 2013 at 10:45 p.m.

How very sad to read this article this afternoon and learn tonight of a friend's suicide. He was in his 50s, a family man. The economic downturn closed his business, and his marriage had gone from being in trouble to getting a divorce.

He left a 12 year old and a 7 year old behind. How very horrible he must have felt to have lost sight of the devastation he did to his beautiful children today.

So sad.

May 2, 2013 at 10:57 p.m.

My uncle committed suicide in December. He was in his fifties and his mother, my grandmother, had passed away two months before. He had spent the last six years taking care of her as her health slowly declined. He did this full time and was unable to work. As a result he had no job and felt no one would hire him and he gave up.

People want to talk about how money isn't important, well it is important when you're facing the loss of your house, being kicked out on the street, living homeless in the last years of your life when you've spent all your life having a roof over your head and food on your table. The people in this article claim they don't know why suicide rates have risen but the answer is obvious: people are losing hope because our government continues to destroy everything for their own interests.

May 2, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.

Ridem-Please, Please don't do it. 29 years ago,my 51 year old father died suddenly,leaving his wife and 5 children a great deal of money in life insurance.While I have been told that he died of a massive heart attack, on some level, I have always wondered if it could have been suicide as he was heavily insured, but he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Financially, My mother, siblings and I benefitted greatly from his death.No amount of money or financial security can replace the fact that have been fatherless since the age of 21. .
I would do ANYTHING to have my father back.

I have to offline for today.  I just saw this and had to post it.

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