According to a report in the CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen substantially since 1999. Suicide deaths have surpassed deaths from motor vehicle crashes with a total of 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 from suicides in 2010 alone.

The CDC investigated suicide trends in adults aged 35–64 by sex and other demographic characteristics, state of residence, and mechanism of injuring from 1999– 2010, using data from the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Annual suicide rates for this age group increased from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010, with a drastic increase among non-Hispanic whites, and American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

Increases in suicide rates among males and females were also observed from suicides involving hanging/suffocation, poisoning, and firearms. The suicide rates for those aged 10–34 and those aged 65 years and older did not change significantly during this period. Data demonstrated that suicide rates among those aged 35–64 increased in all states with statistically significant increases occurring in 39 states.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Suicide rates among those 35–64 years old increased 28% (32% for women, 27% for men).
  • The greatest increases in suicide rates were among people aged 50–54 years (48%) and 55–59 years (49%).
  • Among racial/ethnic groups, the greatest increases in suicide rates were among white non-Hispanics (40%) and American Indian and Alaska Natives (65%).
  • Suicide rates increased 23% or more across all four major regions of the United States.
  • Suicide rates increased 81% for hanging/suffocation, compared to 14% for firearm and 24% for poisoning.
  • Firearm and hanging/suffocation were the most common suicide mechanisms for middle-aged men. Poisoning and firearm were the most common mechanisms for middle-aged women.

Suicide research and prevention efforts are mostly focused on targeting youth and elderly. However this report’s finding suggest that these efforts should also address the needs of middle-aged Americans. Suicide prevention strategies involve providing social support and community connectedness, improving access to mental health and preventive services, and reducing the stigma and barriers associated with seeking help. 

Other prevention strategies include programs to help individuals with an increased risk of suicide, such as those struggling with financial challenges, job loss, intimate partner problems or violence, stress of caregiving for children and aging parents, substance abuse, and serious or chronic health problems.

For more information visit Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’s website.


In your opinion, which is a primary driver for the rise in suicides among middle-aged Americans?