New CDC data show that more Americans now die from suicide than in car accidents—and access to prescription painkillers and years of economic recession may be driving that increase among middle-aged adults.
From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among 35- to 64-year-olds rose from 13.7 deaths per 100,000 people to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people—a nearly 30% increase.
The data also show that men are more likely to commit suicide than women by three-to-one. Among men in their 50s, suicide rates jumped by nearly 50% over the last 10 years, reaching about 30 suicides per 100,000 people.
According to CDC deputy director Ileana Arias, baby boomers may be turning to suicide because financial problems that have altered their life plans. Historically, suicide rates have increased during times of economic downturn. "The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period," Arias told the New York Times.
Another major factor driving the increase in suicides among adults may be the growing availability of opioid drugs. Suicide by poison—which includes prescription drug overdoses—increase by 24% over the 10-year period (Parker-Pope, New York Times, 5/2; Stobbe, AP/ABC News, 5/2; Jaslow, CBS News, 5/2).