By PATRICIA COHEN The New York Times
Published: June 4, 2010
Historically, the eldest segment of the population, those 80 and older, have had the highest rates of suicide in the United States. Starting in 2006, however, the suicide rate among men and women between the ages of 45 and 54 was the highest of any age group.
The most recent figures released, from 2007, reveal that the 45-to-54 age group had a suicide rate of 17.6 per every 100,000 people. The second highest was the 75-to-84 age range, with a rate of 16.4, followed by those between 35 and 44, with a 16.3.
The rate for 45- to 54-year-olds in 2006 was 17.2 per 100,000 people, and in 2005 it was 16.3.
“It’s such a startling rise,” said Dr. Paula Clayton, the medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Researchers are puzzled by the increase, but Dr. Clayton said the rise in suicide among Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s was probably a result of a combination of factors, including easier access to guns and prescription drugs and what may be a higher incidence of depression among baby boomers.
“Ninety percent of people who kill themselves have a mental disorder at the time of their death,” which can be aggravated by drug and alcohol abuse, Dr. Clayton said. Problems related to health, jobs, relationships and finances have also been shown to be important risk factors for suicide, the C.D.C. reported.
Men are more than three times as likely to commit suicide as women, and they tend to use guns. American Indians, Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites are also at greater risk. Veterans are also vulnerable.
About 50,000 people die each year from violence-related injuries; suicides account for more than half that number.
A version of this article appeared in print on June 6, 2010, on page A16 of the New York edition.