Suicides up 30%; risk factors go beyond diagnosed disorders


About 45,000 individuals in the United States took their own lives in 2016, and about half of them had no known mental health diagnosis at the time of death, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide rates rose by approximately 30% across all age groups up to age 75 years.

“Suicide is preventable; that’s why it is important to understand all the factors,” Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a June 7 teleconference announcing the findings. Although mental health conditions often are seen as the cause of suicide, the results highlight the need to address other factors, including relationship problems, substance abuse, trouble with life transitions, and financial difficulties.

In a Vital Signs report published June 7, a team of CDC researchers led by Deborah M. Stone, ScD, reviewed data from suicide rates by state from 1999-2016. To examine the circumstances of suicide among individuals with and without mental health conditions, the researchers also reviewed data from the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System for 2015, which included 27 states.

Although rates increased among all age groups, adults aged 45-64 had the largest absolute increase in suicides, from 13.2 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 19.2 per 100,000 people in 2016.

Dr. Anne Schuchat

Overall, 54% of the suicides in 2016 had no mental health diagnosis. Compared with those with a mental health diagnosis, those without a diagnosis were more likely to be male, part of an ethnic minority, and to have a history of homicide. In addition, those without known mental health conditions were more likely to have served in the military.

The most common causes of suicide were firearms, hanging/suffocation/strangulation, and poisoning.

Individuals without known mental health conditions were significantly more likely than those with mental health con-ditions to have used firearms (55% vs. 41%) and significantly less likely to die from hanging/suffocation/strangulation (27% vs. 31%) or poisoning (10% vs. 20%) in adjusted models, the researchers noted.

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