Nov 29, 2023 - Health

Number of suicides reached record level last year, CDC says

Change in U.S. suicide rate by age group
Data: CDC; Graphic: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

A record number of people in the United States died of suicide last year, while the country's suicide rate reached the highest level in over 80 years, according to new federal data.

The big picture: The startling statistics underscore the toll of the nation's mental health crisis coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid rising rates of anxiety and depression. But there were some encouraging signs among young people, who were especially affected by the pandemic.

By the numbers: Nearly 50,000 Americans took their own lives last year, a 3% increase from 2021, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. That number is likely to grow when data are finalized, the agency said.

  • The suicide rate of 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people was 1% higher than in 2021 and is the highest rate since 1941.
  • The suicide rate increased more among females (4%) than males (1%) last year, but men are about four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • Suicide rates significantly decreased among younger people — by 18% for kids ages 10-14 and by 9% for people ages 15-24 — possibly indicating that efforts to address the youth mental health crisis are working.
  • But the rates increased significantly for most age groups 35 and older, rising the fastest among people ages 55-64 (9%).
  • The suicide rate among American Indian and Alaska Native people, while declining 5% last year, remains far higher than any other racial or ethnic group.

Context: Suicides have been steadily increasing this century, prompting U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in 2021 to lay out an updated national strategy for preventing suicide, the federal report notes.

  • Murthy has especially called attention to the crisis among America's youth, who were facing mounting mental health challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • The government also rolled out a new suicide prevention and mental health hotline last year, 988, hoping that the three-digit service would be easier for people in crisis to call or text.
  • Contacts to the hotline increased significantly in 988's first year, but there is still limited awareness and funding remains a challenge.
  • Meanwhile, a shortage of behavioral health providers and reportedly inadequate coverage of mental health services mean that many people struggle to find the mental health care they need.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Ayuda disponible en español.

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