Late Working-Age Suicides Rising

Late Working-Age Suicides Rising: Study

Noni Mausa

This study from the American Journal Of Preventive Medicine offers troubling statistics – between 1999 and 2005, there has been roughly a 5% increase in suicide rates. But all that increase is confined to one demographic — whites aged 40 to 64.

An L. A. Times story today reports:

A new six-year analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the U.S. suicide rate rose to 11 per 100,000 people in 2005, from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999, an increase of just under 5%.

The report found that virtually all of the increase was attributable to a nearly 16% jump in suicides among people ages 40 to 64, a group not commonly seen as high-risk. The rate for that age group rose to 15.6 per 100,000 in 2005, from 13.5 per 100,000 in 1999.

Susan P. Baker, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and an author of the study, said she was baffled by the findings. Sociological studies have found that middle age is generally a time of relative security and emotional well-being, she said.

The abstract itself says:

Mid-Life Suicide: An Increasing Problem in U.S. Whites, 1999–2005

Guoqing Hu, PhDab, Holly C. Wilcox, PhDd, Lawrence Wissow, MD, MPHc, Susan P. Baker, MPHbCorresponding Author Informationemail address


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).


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.


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.


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.

I don’t know what to make of this, though it would be easy to say that the members of the previously secure age group have since 1999 been hitting the wall like warblers in migration time. The numbers in this study only take us up to 2005 — I wonder what;s been happening since then?

—The study abstract is here: . The whole text is behind a subscription wall.
—The L. A. Times article is here:,0,838216.story