The estimated number of suicide deaths in the United States rose to nearly 50,000 in 2022, according to provisional data released on Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total would be an increase of approximately 2.6 percent since 2021.
The C.D.C. estimates the overall number of deaths to be 49,449 but has not yet calculated the suicide rates for 2022. Given that the U.S. population grew by about 0.4 percent in 2022, a 2.6 percent increase in deaths indicates that suicide rates are continuing to rise, although not universally among all groups.
Suicide deaths have fluctuated somewhat over the years and declined in 2019 and 2020. But the overall suicide rate, or the number of suicides per 100,000 people, has increased by about 35 percent over the last two decades. People 65 and older had the highest increase in the number of deaths by suicide in 2022 among the various age groups.
Experts say ready access to guns contributes to the issue. Suicides attributed to firearm injuries have been rising since 2006. In 2022, nearly 27,000 people died by gun-related suicide, surpassing earlier records and accounting for more than half of all suicide deaths.
Mike Anestis, the executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center, attributes the increase partly to an “unprecedented surge” in firearm sales in 2020. That year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation processed a record of about 39.7 million firearm background checks.
In a paper published in JAMA Psychiatry, Dr. Anestis and his colleagues found that those who purchased a firearm for the first time during the surge were at a higher risk of having experienced suicidal thoughts.
“If firearms are more likely to be in homes where suicidal thoughts recur, then as the years go by you’re more likely to have that sort of confluence of wanting to die and having ready access to — by far — the most lethal method for suicide,” Dr. Anestis said.
Other research suggests that factors like economic uncertainty, substance use, social isolation, difficulty accessing mental health care or stigma around seeking help can also be risk factors for suicide.
“Suicide is complex and is rarely caused by a single issue,” Robin Lee of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control said in an email. “Additionally, we know from prior research that suicide rates may be stable or decline initially during a national disaster (such as the Covid-19 pandemic), only to rise afterward as longer-term consequences unfold for individuals, families and communities.”
The C.D.C. data also included positive developments: The number of suicide deaths fell by around 8 percent among people 10-24 years old and by about 6 percent for American Indian and Alaska Native people.
“I’m hoping what this means is that the work that we’ve all been putting into decreasing youth suicides is really paying off,” said Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, the chief medical officer of the Jed Foundation, a suicide prevention organization that aims to protect the emotional health of teenagers and young adults. “People are coming together from all different areas to support youth mental health.”
Even so, the decrease does not discount the fact that some people in these groups are still struggling with mental health.
From March 2021 to March 2022, for example, a study in JAMA Psychiatry reported a 22 percent increase in teenage girls who visited emergency rooms with a mental health emergency compared with a similar period of time prepandemic. The rise was associated with an increase in suicidal and self-harming behavior.
A KFF analysis of census data found that half of adults ages 18 to 24 reported anxiety and depression symptoms in 2023, compared with about a third of adults overall.
Studies have found that about two-thirds of people with suicidal ideation never make a suicide attempt, and 7 percent of those with suicidal ideation will attempt suicide during the subsequent two years.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, a national network with more than 200 call centers, has undergone a revamp in the past year, including expanded access to counselors, an L.G.B.T.Q. “subnetwork” for those under the age of 25 and Spanish text and chat options. The free service is available at all hours for anyone who needs mental health or substance abuse support, including concerned family members.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Go here for resources outside the United States.
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