Surge in middle-aged suicide19th February 2008
The suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds in the United States jumped nearly 20% from 1999-2004, a new five-year analysis by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, that far outpaces every other age group.
Of the more than 32,000 people who committed suicide in 2004, 14,607 were 40 to 64 years old (6,906 were aged 45-54); 5,198 were over 65; 2,434 were under 21 years old. Among women aged 45-54, the rate leapt 31% , compared with an increase of less than 2 percent for 15-to-19-year-olds - and a drop among people 65 and older. But why?
A prime suspect is the skyrocketing use and abuse of prescription drugs, The New York Times reports. During the same five-year period, there was a staggering increase in the total number of drug overdoses, both intentional and accidental, such as the lethal dose that killed 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger. The lack of concrete research has given rise to all kinds of theories, including a sudden drop in the use of hormone-replacement therapy by menopausal women after health warnings in 2002, higher rates of depression among baby boomers, or a simple statistical fluke.
On the 28.8% rise in the suicide rate among women ages 50-54, Andrew C Leon, a professor of biostatistics in psychiatry at Cornell, suggested that a drop in the use of hormone replacement therapy after 2002 might be implicated. It may be that without the therapy, more women fell into depression, Dr Leon said, but he cautioned this was just speculation.
Despite the sharp rise in suicide among middle-aged women, the total number who died is still relatively small: 834 in the 50-to-54-year-old category in 2004. Over all, four of five people who commit suicide are men. (For men 45 to 54, the five-year rate increase was 15.6%.)
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