Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Study Highlights Rising Number of Older U.S. Men Dying by Suicide

Suicide rates among men aged 65 years and older in the United States have been steadily rising since 2007, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The report revealed that men who are White, aged 85 years or older, and living in rural areas may be at greatest risk.

Sanae El Ibrahimi, Ph.D., of the University of Nevada and colleagues analyzed suicide data from 1999 to 2018 reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER) database. The authors analyzed the data according to age group (65 to 74, 75 to 84, and ≥85 years), race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander), methods of suicide, and the urbanization level (from rural to large metropolitan) of the county where decedents resided.

From 1999 to 2018, 106,861 men aged ≥65 years died of suicide in the United States—an age-adjusted rate of 31.4 per 100,000 people. While the data revealed that suicide rates fell annually by about 1.8% from 1999 to 2007, the rates rose steadily by 1.7% a year for the next decade.

“There are many potential contributors to the … shift [in suicide rates] around 2007, one of which could [have been] the start of the economic recession (i.e., the Great Recession) in the United States,” El Ibrahimi and colleagues wrote. “On the basis of their limited earning potential and high rates of unemployment, older adults may be left with fewer alternatives to supplement income, remain in their homes, be more socially isolated, and avoid associated hardships.”

Additional analysis revealed that the rate of suicide among men older than 85 years (48.8 per 100,000 people) was almost double the rate among those aged 65 to 74 years (24.7 per 100,000 people). Within the racial/ethnic groups, the lowest suicide rates were observed among men who were Black, with low variation across the urbanization levels (between 9 and 11 per 100,000 people), whereas the highest rate was observed among men who were White residing in the most rural communities (41.4 per 100,000 people).

The distribution of suicide by urbanization level and methods of suicide showed a higher rate of suicide by firearms in more rural than in more urban areas (34.8 per 100,000 in the most rural counties versus 19.2 per 100,000 in large central metropolitan counties).

“As the number of older people increases in the United States, the number of suicides by older people is also expected to increase,” El Ibrahimi and colleagues wrote. “Specific interventions are needed to change the existing trends in suicide prevalence among [older] male adults.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Psychoanalyst Examines How Culture Influences Suicide.”

(Image: iStock/Barcin)

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