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Expand chart
Data: Vital Statistics Surveillance Report; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Suicide deaths dropped overall in the U.S. for the second year in a row by 3%, according to preliminary data out Wednesday from the CDC.

The big picture: It's potentially an unexpected bit of good news in light of other data which shown the pandemic resulted in higher rates of anxiety, isolation and financial hardship.

But it also may not tell the whole story.

What they're saying: "With other causes of death like heart disease, if you saw an increase in risk factors, you would expect to see an increase in the deaths or almost model it. But with suicide, it's harder than that and more complex," Sally Curtin, health statistician and author of the study, told Axios.

Reality check: Trends of suicide are at times difficult to make conclusive analyses because many factors are at play. For instance, investigations on drug overdoses take time and it's not immediately clear if they are intentional.

Researchers from the CDC can't speculate what's behind the decrease, Curtin said.

  • "I know it's hard because we know in 2020 drug overdoses increased and — although not deaths of despair — homicides increased," she added.

But, but, but: There were increases in suicide among young adults over 35, as well as American Indians and Alaska Natives, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans.

  • Suicide rates were the highest among American Indians and Alaska Natives, which increased by 5% in 2020, followed by white Americans.
  • Black and Hispanic women had the lowest rates of suicide among any group. White women had the largest decline at 10% between 2019 and 2020.
  • Between 1999 and 2018, suicides increased 35% before a slight decrease of 2% in 2019.
  • The agency's preliminary data confirmed a 14% drop in suicide deaths in April 2020 compared to April 2019 despite suicide hotline calls increasing at that time.

State of play: Some researchers have concluded the self-reported levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking in high-income and middle-income countries, didn't necessarily translate to increases in suicide, a study from The Lancet published in the spring shows.

  • Their reasoning pointed to competency in governments responding to the threat to mental health, community support for at-risk individuals and new connections or relationships strengthened within households.
  • It's also possible, the financial help provided by some countries staved off economic distress for some individuals. Though, it is possible "the pandemic's potential suicide-related effects are yet to occur" as support withdraws and reduces, the authors of the report said.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Go deeper

Overdose deaths spiked among Black residents in Philly in 2020

Expand chart
Data: Substance Use Philadelphia; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

An estimated 497 Black residents died of unintentional overdoses in Philadelphia last year, the sharpest increase of any racial group.

Driving the news: A total of 1,214 people died from unintentional overdoses in the city in 2020, a 5.5% jump over the previous year, according to the Philadelphia Public Health Department's annual report released this week.

Of note: The vast majority — nearly 86% — of all overdose deaths in the city last year involved opioids, driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Nov 19, 2021 - Health

Most states ranked poorly in quality of care for people of color, report says

Expand chart
Data: The Commonwealth Fund; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Black Americans in almost every state were more likely than white Americans to die from preventable and treatable health conditions, a new report from the Commonwealth Fund out Thursday shows.

Why it matters: A lack of health care access, and "timely, high-quality care," were correlated to poorer health outcomes, the authors conclude.

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

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