After declining for the past two years, suicides were up again in 2021

Steven Loeb · September 30, 2022 · Short URL:

The suicide rate spiked in young people, particularly those aged 15 to 24

It might seem somewhat counterintuative, but the rate of suicide deaths actually decreased during the pandemic; while suicides increased 35% from 1999 to 2018, they declined by 2% in 2019 and then by another 3% in 2020. This is despite the increase in overall mental health problems, as well as the increase in suicide ideation brought on by COVID-19; it seems like, while more people were thinking about it, fewer were actually doing it.

Now the world is starting to get back to normal, and that means things are going back to the way they were in ways both good and bad, as the suicide rate is also once again on the rise.

According to new data from the CDC, the number of suicides in 2021 rose 4% year-to-year, as did the suicide rate, growing to 47,646 from 45,979 in 2020. In fact, they were up every single month from the same time frame in 2020, except for January, February, and July, with the largest increase coming in October, with an 11% jump.

(For reference, the suicide rate is based on the population per 100,000 estimated U.S. population. So, even if the overall number was up for a specific age group, the rate might still decline based on the population size)

The increases were brought about by young people, particularly those aged 15 to 24, which saw their suicide rate rise by 8%. This should not be a surprise as more than a third of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless over the previous year.

Those aged 25 to 34 saw their suicide rate go up 4%, 35 to 44 year olds were up 5%, and 65 to 74 year olds rose by 4%.

Meanwhile, those aged 75 and over had their suicide rate decline 2% year-to-year, making them the only age group to see their rate go down, even as the actual number of suicides still rose 1% from 2020. 

When broken down by gender, suicide rates increased for males by 3% overall from 2020, particularly those aged 15 to 44 and those aged 65 to 74; females saw a 2% increase, specifically those 10 to 34, and 55 to 64.

The sharpest increase came among females aged 10 to 14, who saw their suicide rate increase by 15%, while males of the same age saw their rate drop 6% in the same time frame; they were the only group to see an overall decline in the number of suicides from 2020 to 201. Still, the over number of males in this age group who committed suicide was still larger at 356, compared to 237 in females. 

Despite the increase, the total number of suicides in 2021 still remained 1% lower than the total number in 2018. 

(Vator will be holding its Future of Behavioral and Mental Health event in October with speakers that include Russ Glass from Headspace Health; Steve Gatena from; Ben Lewis from Limbix; Rebecca Egger from Little Otter; Divya Shah from Meta, and others. Register here to buy your ticket)

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