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Suicide deaths in the U.S. reached a record high in 2022, preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention shows.
The 49,449 known suicide deaths last year mark a 3% increase compared to 2021, though the CDC cautions the number of suicide deaths in 2022 could increase as more death certificates are finalized. Current data shows 14.3 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people.
The largest increases were seen in older adults. Deaths rose nearly 7% in people ages 45 to 64, and more than 8% in people 65 and older. White men, in particular, have very high rates, the CDC said.
What’s causing suicide rates to go up?
A woman presses her face agains the photo of Vanessa Haros, who died of suicide, amidst photos on a memorial posters during the 25th annual "Alive Together: Uniting to Prevent Suicide" that raises funds and awareness for suicide prevention (Allen J.
Experts caution that suicide is complicated, and that recent increases might be driven by a range of factors, including higher rates of depression and limited availability of mental health services.
But a main driver is the growing availability of guns, said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, senior vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Suicide attempts involving guns end in death far more often than those with other means, and gun sales have boomed — placing firearms in more and more homes.
U.S. suicides steadily rose from the early 2000s until 2018, when the national rate hit its highest level since 1941. That year saw about 48,300 suicide deaths — or 14.2 for every 100,000 Americans.
The rate fell slightly in 2019. It dropped again in 2020, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some experts tied that to a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and natural disasters, when people pull together and support each other.
But in 2021, suicides rose 4%. Last year, according to the new data, the number jumped by more than 1,000, to 49,449 — about a 3% increase vs. the year before.
Why suicide rates are higher in men
Men accounted for more than 79% of all recorded U.S. suicides in 2022 (39,255), but suicide rates increased at a slightly higher rate for women (10,194) than men last year, data shows.
Participants walk side-by-side in support and in memory of those lost, during American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Walk at Montrose Harbor on October 21, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Gett
According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression, but only a fourth as likely as men to die by suicide.
"Men value independence and decisiveness, and they regard acknowledging a need for help as weakness and avoid it," the study explains. "Women value interdependence, and they consult friends and readily accept help. Women consider decisions in a relationship context, taking many things into consideration, and they feel freer to change their minds.
"It is argued here that women derive strength and protection from suicide by virtue of specific differences from men. Factors that protect women from suicide are opposite to vulnerability factors in men," the study continued.
How is the US responding to the alarming spike?
Despite the grim statistics, some say there is reason for optimism. A national crisis line launched a year ago, meaning anyone in the U.S. can dial 988 to reach mental health specialists.
Classmates, family and friends of Jordan Park, Jonah Anschell and Donald "Trey" Brown III, three Harvard Westlake students who died by suicide last spring, pose for a photo before walking with a banner of Donald "Trey" Brown III, who was 16 and a sop
According to data from the federal government, 988 has received about 7 million calls, texts and chats since its July 2022 launch.
There was a more than 8% drop in suicides in people ages 10 to 24 in 2022. That may be due to increased attention to youth mental health issues and a push for schools and others to focus on the problem, CDC officials said.
The CDC is expanding a suicide program to fund more prevention work in different communities. And there’s growing awareness of the issue and that it’s OK to ask for help, health officials say.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.