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US suicide rates see steady uptick, study says in scathing assessment

Over 16 million deaths of U.S. adults were analyzed over a number of years in a recent study, with data revealing which groups were affected most.
US suicide rates see steady uptick, study says in scathing assessment
Posted at 2:05 PM, Feb 16, 2024

Millions of U.S. adult deaths were analyzed over number of years in a recently published university study, shedding light on why the suicide rate in the U.S. has has seen a steady uptick since the 1990s. 

The newly published study by the University of Colorado Boulder shows that in 2022, almost 50,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide — up by 3% compared to 2021.

The study's authors delivered scathing remarks regarding the U.S. government's handling of the health care system and financial protections offered to taxpayers. 

Daniel Simon, an author in the study, said, "The U.S. federal government's weak regulatory oversight of the pharmaceutical industry and tattered social safety nets have significantly shaped U.S. suicide risk."

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The CU Boulder study — published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior this week — found that access to potentially lethal opioids has affected parts of the population more, facilitating easier methods for death by suicide. The study found that women aged 40-55 were particularly impacted. 

Simon said the study "showed that the approval, easy access and over-prescription of opioid-based pain relievers had deleterious consequences for U.S. suicide rates for women, a reality that has been overlooked in discussions of the opioid epidemic."

Increased use of social media was also listed as a significant factor for declining mental health connected to death by suicide, the study said. Increased exposure to firearms in the U.S. was also mentioned.

It was the U.S. federal government's continued contractions on the safety nets so often provided by governments around the world that appeared to be particularly highlighted in the study. 

The pandemic highlighted how tough economic times can be a major factor for the mental health of citizens — and how safeguards are vital for getting through unexpectedly bad economic weather.  

Study data, which came from an analysis of 16 million deaths between 1990 and 2017, found that non-poisoning suicide rates — which exclude deaths by drug overdose — have remained steady over the years between 1990 and the 2000s. 

Suicide rates spiked at the start of the housing and financial crash that came after 2007. Rates rose by as much as 2% a year for Black men, and by about 2.5% annually for White men. For Native American and Native Alaskan men and women, that rate was about 9% a year, with those trends continuing for years after the recession was remedied economically, data found. 

An author on the study, Ryan Masters, said, "Oftentimes, the health consequences of an economic downturn can be mitigated by aggressive moves to alleviate the financial burden of individuals."

If you need to talk to someone, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. 

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