Why Are Suicide Rates Rising For Middle-Aged Adults?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more Americans commit suicide than die in car crashes. The rate is rising among middle-aged Americans in particular. Paula Clayton, medical director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, talks about the numbers, what might be behind the increase, and prevention.

For information about preventing suicide, including finding help yourself, here's a list of resources. 

To talk to someone on the Suicide Prevention Hotline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Paula Clayton

Comments [54]

Barry Kort from Greater Boston

My last dozen or so blog posts have addressed the reasons so many people of my generation are becoming profoundly dispirited.

May. 08 2013 01:39 PM

After a 10 year battle in losing my East Village apt. home of 25 years certainly has brought me close. Just go down to 111 Center street and sit in on a number of housing battles and you will get a sense of the true illness of this society. Lawyers and landlords that don't lose a wink of sleep putting people out of their homes. My neighbors beautiful home was taken from him while he was in the hospital fighting cancer..What caused this rise..look at the banks, and the general concept that the dollar is the bottom line in all decisions.

May. 07 2013 02:49 PM
Leslie Tucker from East Village, NYC

I think the U.S. is fast becoming a Killing Fields of sorts.

Maybe I've been listening to too much news, but with all our gun violence and NRA's influence on Congress, the hubris and criminal recklessness of our banks and investment institutions, the exorbitant amounts of sugar in our processed foods, a new report showing that the U.S. has the highest first-day death rate for newborns in the industrialized world, and now with this suicide statistic? It seems that we'd all fare a whole lot better if we just got the heck out of here.

May. 07 2013 01:19 PM
Donald J. Sepanek from Bayonne, NJ

Her avoidance behavior with respect to the issue of male identity crisis was quite telling.

May. 07 2013 12:47 PM


That last one posted to the wrong segment!

May. 07 2013 12:03 PM
PJ from Nj

I'm from the Caribbean. What I observe here is that communities ate not tight, friendships shallow and fleeting, people are lonely and so they do the unthinkable.

May. 07 2013 12:03 PM assign your kid to be the designated driver while you get wasted in bars?!?!?

Is it really any SURPRISE the kid doesn't have an interest in being impaired?!?!

He's smart enough to understand that he has been the forced enabler of his own parents alcoholism!

He's choosing to be emotionally functional.

May. 07 2013 12:01 PM
fuva from harlemworld

John A., I hear ya. Yes, I think this increasingly remote culture has myriad adverse effects, including the fact that we are largely incurious about and unaware of them.

May. 07 2013 11:58 AM
The Truth from Becky

Miscellaneous you too, God Bless you, don't give up, there is much more life left after the career and raising kids, some good some bad just look around you will find a reason to stay, if there are kids then there are grandkids... the future is unwritten, stay hopeful.

May. 07 2013 11:55 AM

friend of the deceased from brooklyn ~

I'm so sorry for your loss!! We are all less of a society by allowing your friend to slip through the cracks.

May. 07 2013 11:52 AM
Susannah Perlman from NYC

Why are there no marches or vigils for these middle age suicides as they are for teen suicides? Aren't they as important. These people have families, homes, responsibilities, yet they die quietly and their obits are vague.. My father died of suicide in the 70's long before anti-depressants were as prevalent as they are today. It was tucked away and not spoken of - only a lot of unanswered questions.

May. 07 2013 11:49 AM
friend of the deceased from brooklyn

One of my closest friends commited suicide last week. He was 50.

I thinks Miscellaneous from Anywhere comes closest to sharing how I imagine he must have felt. He was incredibly rational. He had achieved what he was going to in his life. What he saw in his future wasn't of interest and he checked out. He could have gotten help, but it would have been at cross-purposes with what he really wanted. He cut himself and bled to death. No guns, no prescription drugs. Is that depression or determination? Courage or cowardice? I convey this in a most rational way, but I am, needless to say, devastated by the loss.

May. 07 2013 11:48 AM
John A

To your point on socialization, how many times have I met a world-adverse person in an online community? Perhaps too many times. Point being - are the little chat groups helping or hurting people? Unclear.

May. 07 2013 11:42 AM
The Truth from Becky

Linda, God Bless your honesty and for sharing, stay hopeful, you can do this, you sound like a determined person, you once had 3 out temporary assistance to get you through..don't give up.

May. 07 2013 11:42 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Dan

Yes, the American black man was mentally destroyed a long time ago, and the liberal destruction of the black family - which Blacks have only recently been recovering from - has meant that Black men assume that failure is their probable lot in life. As you state, their self-perception and expectations were so low from the getgo, so the chance that they will kill themselves as a result is definitely lower. If you never had much to lose, you can't see yourself as a loser. You felt like a loser the day you were born into a visible and often despised minority group.

May. 07 2013 11:41 AM
Jf from Hundreds of miles of sprawl

No one has depression, this is dystopia. No adventure, no opportunity, no community....if every lawn in america was replaced with a food producibg farm or flower garden suicide would go down ,80%. Stop trying to lower expectations we are evolved for an exiting adventurous life for millions of years. And about hors

May. 07 2013 11:40 AM

While there are so many possible causes for this rise, I have yet to hear anyone, especially health authorities,question what effects environmental toxins and the nutrient deficient standard American diet have had in contributing to the rise in the suicide rate.

May. 07 2013 11:39 AM
Julie from new york

I found this segment to be quite disappointing because in many ways the speaker had no idea of facts and was simply vamping and drawing specious conclusions from incomplete data. In fact the highest suicide rate in the country is among black males 12-18. The drop that occurs in mid-life is probably attributed to the fact that most american black males don't ever expect to get there. Also, a reason touched upon by a caller but not fully explored was the reality that the bill of goods sold us in the 80's and 90's has turned to dross and people in their fifties are faces with possibly 30 more years on earth without sufficient means to exist much less live. There are no jobs because no one wants to pay commensurate with experience and more than at any time the thirst for youth in all its incarnations is rabid. The next generation has NO expectations therefore can only be pleasantly surprised by theirs lives as opposed to horribly disappointed as we are. And also, how can you say there is a stigma regarding therapy? Again specious -- 45-55 year olds were drenched in the ethos of therapy. Depression became a "thing" when we were coming up. A deeper and more thoughtful dive would have been appreciated.

May. 07 2013 11:38 AM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

50% of men who retire at age 65 die or have a serious illness within 18 months of retirement. This is because we have brought up males to so identify worth with work and economic success. The depression and lack of worth that ensues when we have no work is debilitating. We desperately need to educate men and women that there are other ways to feel good about yourself, absent work.

May. 07 2013 11:38 AM
fuva from harlemworld

LINDA, and others: God bless and thanks for sharing. Please, HANG IN THERE. Really, it DOES get better, in circumstance and/or outlook.

Regarding the racial suicide divide, expectation may definitely play a role here. But what about socialization? Are some communities more communal than others, and is this operative?

May. 07 2013 11:35 AM
Stephen Ditmore from Marble Hill, NYC

I have a very definite view on where the where the boomer/x'er cutoff is. It's the Kennedy assassination: November 22, 1963. Born before that date, you're a boomer. After, you're an x'er. I was born January 8, 1963; my brother October 24, 1964. I'm totally a boomer and he's totally and x'er. He had his friends grew up playing dungeons & dragons -- not me or my classmates.

May. 07 2013 11:35 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Bill Lawrence of Brooklyn

Yes, women love to chat it up with their fellow females, mostly ruminating about how men make them miserable, but men are basically loners. Men can't commiserate with each other. It's not "manly." The inability of men to be open and honest and bond as human beings is why mankind, or I should say, kind men will be eliminated over time.

May. 07 2013 11:35 AM
Dan from Brooklyn

Could the reason the suicide rate is lower in the African American male population (a group to which I belong) be that the expectations of achievement is lower for us over all?

May. 07 2013 11:34 AM

Abortion from Larchmont ~ the usual moronic religiosity.

jgaridiot from Queens ~ ...well. the same low expectations.

May. 07 2013 11:32 AM
John A

Didn't they used to say that drugs were just an escape for people who can't handle reality? Well so's suicide. I really think that resorting to an escape all the time weakens people to facing reality.
And, aren't there record levels of drug use too?

May. 07 2013 11:30 AM
joan from Brooklyn

It doesn't help that elected officials, and those running for office, label 47% of the population as losers. If you haven't inherited or grabbed all you could with both hands you are a loser. I'm surprised the right wing, and many on the left, haven't hailed suicide as a solution to the supposed impending baby boomer run on entitlements. Maybe we could get Rogoff and Rinehart to do a study.

May. 07 2013 11:30 AM
Bill Lawrence from Brooklyn NY

I wonder if the preponderance of male suicides over female and rural over urban doesn't have a lot to do with social contact. Women are much better at maintaining a supportive circle of friends, and rural folk, especially males, seem to be far more socially isolated. (Or maybe not)\

May. 07 2013 11:28 AM
Teal from tarrytown

At aboaut to turn 63, not a day goes by when I do not aknowledge with enormous gratitude, having a career/job that I love, a loving husband,and beloved grown children, plus dear dear friends. Thus is my wish for so many of my genration in sorrow, poverty, solitude and pain.

May. 07 2013 11:27 AM
Linda from Wash Heights

I never used to have suicidal thoughts, however, the financial stress due to unemployment / underemployment has been overwhelming. I am 51 and often have these thoughts; I used to have three jobs, seven days a week, I was financially secure and now I only have a 20 hour a week job. I can deal with any stress but the day in and out of financial stress is far greater than anything I've dealt with; I'm 51.

May. 07 2013 11:27 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Religion doesn't give so much inhibition to suicide, as joy in life and truth, which leaves one less reason for suicide.

May. 07 2013 11:26 AM

Disposable humanity in the Konsumer Kulture™.

What happened to our values?

May. 07 2013 11:26 AM

Anyone mentioning the widespread use of drugs like Prozac in influencing this trend? They have been proven to significantly increase the odds of suicide.

May. 07 2013 11:26 AM

First: The Baby Boom, the post-WWII bump in birth rates, ended in 1962.

Second: The driver here seems to be the schism between expectation and outcome. The Great Recession (and the slowness of the recovery) has brought upon us a radical shift in wealth and a decrease in average incomes that we Boomers find the biggest change between 'what is' and 'what should be'. Who would have thought you could work your entire life, follow all the rules and still be bankrupted by a health issue or your kid's college education, for chrissakes...

My wife says it's part of the GOP Plan - kill off the older ones before they cost us real money! I'm not as cynical but I do see it as a sign of giving up rather than sticking around and being willing to fight for a world I think it is worth living in.

May. 07 2013 11:26 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

As expected, the liberal feminist doctor focuses mostly on "restricting the means" rather than talking about the heart of the matter. Maybe she would also put bars on windows so that people can't jump out? Typical blarney.

May. 07 2013 11:25 AM
John A

A good religious Arab should care what happens to the Israelis - and vice versa. That issue of religiosity again.

May. 07 2013 11:24 AM
Bob from Flushing

Please address the affects of the continued re-distribution of wealth upwards since the late 1970s. Boomers have been perpetually treading water economically, and all their options to maintain a decent standard of living--credit cards, home equity--have gone bust with ramifications for them, their children, and surviving parents (Let's not forget the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans.)

May. 07 2013 11:23 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Are you saying that what is supposed to make us happy doesn't really make us happy? Hmm. I wouldn't put any hope at all in Obamacare, which should be called Obamacoverage.

May. 07 2013 11:23 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

jgarbuz: That's about the stupidest comment I've ever read here. I'm a feminist and I care about all my friends and family members, no matter what their gender. Feminism doesn't mean we are only women concerned about women; it means PEOPLE concerned about other PEOPLE. I think what feminism does is elevate us from women to people.

May. 07 2013 11:23 AM
michael from NYC

been out of work since 09, started at the place to work myself through college and my worked offered me full time and I took it. I told my self I would go back to nite school and never did. The NYC scene at the time was feeding my love of nightlife. I worked very hard luckily at night so I could go out after work, and have it together by 3p the next day. And sadly that was fine for a long period.
Thiongs changed and lost my job and am now out with an early pension and still without a college education.
Depression has set in, and cannot find a job and getting SSI soon.

May. 07 2013 11:22 AM

Kate from Brooklyn from Brooklyn ~

My heart goes out to your family!!!

May. 07 2013 11:22 AM
Lee NYC from NYC

Why is this report a surprise? I can cite at least a dozen middle-aged friends who were laid off during the Great Recession and have been unemployed or underemployed since. And yet, when unemployment treands or impact are discussed -- *including on this show btw* -- the discussion focuses on the plight of younger people. Many middle-aged people live in poverty or close to it, often using retirement funds to survive. It's a national disgrace.

May. 07 2013 11:21 AM

...try being unemployed for an extended period of time due to no fault of your own. Being "downsized" by the Korporate Kulture® No access to healthcare for yourself or your family.

Unable to care for your children.

Try being told, in so many words, that you're "washed-up" - too old (unable to afford ridiculously high for-profit tuition rates) for school, forced to face "entry level", menial, demeaning, minimum wage, Wallmart™ work after making a decent living for years...

Is it really any wonder folks are blowing their brains out???

Go, Korporate Amerika®!!

It's a incredible Kountry®!!

May. 07 2013 11:19 AM
Tracey from Ridgewood NJ

It's not a baby boomer thing as much as it is a age-group thing. Going back to Erikson's Life Stages, this mid-life bracket is "Generativity vs. Stagnation." If you are not generating or gaining, i.e., income, nest-egg, position, relationships, then you are stagnant--going nowhere. We are all one divorce, job-loss, illness away from bankruptcy. When options appear bleak (as they would to anyone who has had to look for a job in the last few years) then suicide offers personal relief.

May. 07 2013 11:18 AM
Kate from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

A quick comment. My aunt committed suicide at age 59. Her husband's real estate investment went bust (this was 2007 in Colorado) and while they were in between health insurance policies, she had health problems that left them with $30,000+ worth of bills. After living a middle class existence for all of her life, she suddenly had to sell her house, cars, etc. and move into a trailer park. The shame of that situation plus depression and thyroid issues left her totally hopeless. She committed suicide with prescription drugs on Christmas Eve, 2007.

May. 07 2013 11:17 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Does anyone actually believe that a feminist will care what happens to men? That's like asking Arabs if they care what happens to Israelis :)

May. 07 2013 11:16 AM
The Truth from Becky

Interesting perspective from the psychotherapist

May. 07 2013 11:16 AM
John A

Remember: record low levels of: Marriage, birthrates, religiosity.

May. 07 2013 11:14 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Leave it to the anti-gun crowd to focus on guns as the problem. How about the destruction of family life and father's rights as one possible cause of rising suicides?

May. 07 2013 11:14 AM
Alice from new york city

I've suffered with depression since adolescence and had a great deal of suicidal ideation over the years, although I have never made an attempt. I find that in my '50's I have learned that many of the things I hoped and expected to accomplish in my life will not happen. Most of the time I accept that but sometimes, and for many I expect, it brings an overwhelming feeling of failure and hopelessness that overwhelms and can lead to suicide before that dread has time to lift.

May. 07 2013 11:14 AM
Miscellaneous from Anywhere, USA

Query: If someone no longer wants to live, why should we, as a society, tell them that it's wrong or that they can't? Isn't that person solving a number of problems - his or her own, as well as those of the society trying to keep him or her alive? And, after someone has grown, had a career, children, lived life, why should we convince them to hang around longer than they want to?

May. 07 2013 11:13 AM
The Truth from Becky

I would guess the highest rate of this is associated with white male head of households. job loss the ecomomy probably causes them to rate highest in the area of baby boomer suicides..can't handle stress and pressure, my guess.

May. 07 2013 11:12 AM

aren't gun mostly used to kill one self? has easier access led to more suicide

May. 07 2013 11:10 AM
suzinne from Bronx

These statistics have to do with one thing basically: the economy. You can be sure - and I know this personally - your future prospects go way down when you lose a job, have exhausted savings and must live on a disability/social security check. Baby boomers are going bust, seriously folks.

May. 07 2013 11:07 AM

Please include the devastation of middle age job loss, extended unemployment, age discrimination in hiring (without recourse) and the wearing struggle to accept that most of us will never regain meaningful work or restart a stalled career in our mid to later years. I witnessed these factors contribute to the suicides of two colleagues within the past four years,and only the fact that a doctor was kindly enough to "assist" one of them provides comfort. So many are also in fear of outliving their money that it only seems practical to disguise the death so that at least the children can gain the insurance money for college. Such an American tragedy, all of our own creation, but so sad and truly-without aid or solution.

May. 07 2013 10:04 AM

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