Dawn Ashley / CC BY-ND 2.0

Americans are killing themselves at the highest rate in 30 years, and middle-aged people are leading the trend.

More than 42,000 Americans killed themselves in 2014, and roughly half used a firearm. These and others statistics are likely to fall below the actual rate because many suicides are recorded as accidents.

The Guardian reports:

A report published Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics found that between 1999 and 2014, the largest increases in suicide were seen among middle-aged men and women 45 to 64 years old, and girls 10 to 14 years old. Older Americans, aged 75 and over, were the only group to see a decline in suicides during the same period.

The suicide rate among women increased more quickly than among men. But men continued to account for the vast majority of deaths in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. The suicide rate among men was 20.7 per 100,000, compared to 5.8 per 100,000 among women.

This new suicide data underpins recent studies that showed a decline in life expectancy among middle-aged, white Americans – especially women. Such studies attributed the increasing death rate to drug and alcohol misuse, as well as suicide. However, the NCHS data did not analyze racial and ethnic differences in suicide. …

Curtin’s report did not identify causes behind the increase in suicide. But a 2013 analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the recent economic downturn and a vulnerability among baby boomers who had “unusually high suicide rates during their adolescent years” as possible contributing factors to the rising suicide rate for middle-aged adults.

“We don’t really know enough about what’s driving this rise,” said Mark Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Past research in this field has focused on young people and very old people. But we know far less about what’s causing suicides among the middle age range: 25 to 64-year-olds. We’re only now starting to invest in trying to understand this phenomenon.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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