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May 2, 2013

Suicides now outnumber deaths from car crashes

The number of suicide deaths in the U.S. has climbed past the number of motor vehicle deaths in recent years, due mostly to an increase in suicide among middle-aged Americans.

In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides. Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen substantially since 1999, according to a report in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Suicide is a tragedy that is far too common," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "The stories we hear of those who are impacted by suicide are very difficult.  This report highlights the need to expand our knowledge of risk factors so we can build on prevention programs that prevent suicide."

The report highlighted deaths among U.S. adults aged 35 to 64 and found that suicide rates in that age group increased 28 percent from 1999 to 2010, from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 to 17.6 per 100,000. The increase was particularly high among whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

The greatest increases in suicide rates were among people aged 50 to 54 years (up 48 percent) and 55 to 59 years (up 49 percent). The rates for those aged 10 to 34 and those 65 or older did not change significantly.

"The findings in this report suggest it is important for suicide prevention strategies to address the types of stressors that middle-aged Americans might be facing and that can contribute to suicide risk," said Linda C. Degutis, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Suicide rates increased 81 percent for hanging and suffocation, compared to 14 percent  for firearms and 24 percent for poisoning. Firearms and hanging/suffocation were the most common suicide mechanisms for middle-aged men. Poisoning and firearms were the most common mechanisms for middle-aged women.

The CDC noted that most suicide research and prevention efforts have focused historically on youth and the elderly and said the latest "suggest that efforts should also address the needs of middle-aged persons."

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