Suicide Rates Up, Especially for Middle-Aged White Women
Middle-aged whites, ages 40–64, have emerged as a new high-risk group for suicides, according to a new study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Suicide rates were tracked between 1999 and 2005, with middle-aged white women showing the largest annual increase. While the overall rate increased 0.7%, the rate among middle-aged white men rose 2.7% annually and among middle-aged women, 3.9%. By contrast, the suicide rate for blacks decreased significantly, and it remained stable among Asian and Native Americans.
The reasons for the increase in the suicide rate are not fully understood. “While it would be straightforward to attribute the results to a rise in so-called mid-life crises, recent studies find that middle age is mostly a time of relative security and emotional well-being,” said study co-author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with the Bloomberg School’s Center for Injury Research and Policy. “Further research is warranted to explore societal changes that may be disproportionately affecting the middle-aged in this country.”
WebMD noted that the report offered some ways to protect against suicide:
- Learning or developing new coping or problem-solving skills
- Adhering to cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide
- Strong support from family and/or community members
- Available high-quality treatment for mental or physical disorders or addictions
“Historically, suicide prevention programs have focused on groups considered to be at highest risk—teens and young adults of both genders as well as elderly white men,” said Baker. “This research tells us we need to refocus our resources to develop prevention programs for men and women in their middle years.”
The results are published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and will appear in the journal’s December 2008 print version.
Published October 30, 2008
Silver Planet Feature Writer