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Mid-Life Suicide

An Increasing Problem in U.S. Whites, 1999–2005
  • Guoqing Hu
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Health Statistics, School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China

    Department of Health Policy and Management, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Holly C. Wilcox
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Lawrence Wissow
    Affiliations
    Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Susan P. Baker
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Susan P. Baker, MPH, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Department of Health Policy and Management, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore MD 21205
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Policy and Management, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
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      Background

      The overall suicide rate in the U.S. increased by 6% between 1981 and 1986 and declined by 18% between 1986 and 1999. Detailed descriptions of recent trends in suicide are lacking, especially with regard to the method of suicide. Information is needed on the major changes in rates of suicide in specific population groups in recent years (1999–2005).

      Methods

      Mortality data came from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Suicide trends during 1981–2005 were analyzed by age, race, gender, and method, with an emphasis on increases between 1999 and 2005. Linear regression was used to examine the significance of trends in suicide mortality. The annual percentage change in rates was employed to measure the linear trend in suicide mortality.

      Results

      The suicide rate increased after 1999, due primarily to an increase in suicide among whites aged 40–64 years, whose rate of completed suicide between 1999 and 2005 rose by 2.7% annually for men and by 3.9% annually for women, with increases of 6.3% and 2.3% for hanging/suffocation, 2.8% and 19.3% for poisoning, and 1.5% and 1.9% for firearms for men and women, respectively. Rates did not increase for other age or racial groups.

      Conclusions

      The differential increases by age, race, gender, and method underscore a change in the epidemiology of suicide. Whites aged 40–64 years have recently emerged as a new high-risk group for suicide. Although firearms remain the most common method of suicide, the notable increases in suicide by hanging/suffocation in men and by poisoning in women deserve preventive attention.
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      Linked Article

      • Correction
        American Journal of Preventive MedicineVol. 37Issue 6
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          Hu G, Wilcox HC, Wissow L, Baker SP. Mid-life suicide: an increasing problem in U.S. Whites, 1999–2005. Am J Prev Med 2008;35(6):589–93.
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