Suicide rates drop again by 2020, but not for all groups

Preliminary data reveal an increase in suicide rates among young adults, as well as other people of color.


In the early days of the epidemic, there were fears that anxiety, segregation, and financial uncertainty could lead to an increase in suicide. Instead, after two decades of rising suicide rates in the US, the number of suicides has dropped by 2020 for the second year in a row, according to initial organizational data published on Wednesday.

While suicide rates are declining overall in the US, there has been an increase among young adults, as well as American Indians and Alaska Natives, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Suicide rates in the United States increased by 35 percent between 1999 and 2018, before a slight decline of 2 percent in 2019.

New CDC data, comprising 99 percent of suicides by 2020, showed a 3 percent decline last year.

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The decline in white suicide rates among white men and women has been a major factor in the decline in 2019 and 2020. The white American population has dropped by 5 percent - the largest of any group - followed by a 4 percent decline in the Asian American population. White men saw a 3 percent decrease, while white women as a whole decreased by 10 percent.

The overall suicide rate among women dropped by 8 percent between 2019 and 2020 and by 2 percent among men as a whole.

For young Americans, suicide rates rose slightly across all 10- to 34-year-olds, although the only significant increase was a 5 percent increase in 25- to 34-year-olds, the report said.

Suicide rates were among the highest among Native Americans and Alaskan Indians, up 5 percent by 2020, followed by white Americans. Black Americans and Spanish Americans had similar suicide rates. Black and Hispanic women had the lowest suicide rates in any group, but those numbers do not reflect the whole picture.

It is the first time that the CDC has compiled a report based on preliminary data.

"We knew from the first quarter data that what happened in the groups was different, and we wanted to look at that difference," said Sally Curtin, a mathematician at the CDC who led the study.

Curtin noted that although the suicide rates among Blacks and Hispanic Americans remained significantly lower than the suicide rates among Native Americans and the Alaska Native population and whites, overall, suicide rates were higher in 2020 than in 2019 for both black Americans and Americans. -Hispanic American.

The increase we see in the number of people is alarming, and it may have nothing to do with the epidemic.


Although the suicide rate among Black girls and women aged 10 to 24 is lower compared to other groups, mortality among this group increased by more than 30 percent, from 1.6 to 2.1 per 100,000 people. Black boys and men of the same age increased by 23 percent, from 3.0 to 3.7 per 100,000.

Among Spanish women in this age group, the rate has increased by 40 percent, from 1.5 to 2.1 per 100,000 people. Hispanic men in this age group have seen a 20 percent increase, from 2.0 to 2.4.

Asian women aged 15 to 24 also saw a 30 percent increase in suicides, from 4.9 to 6.2 per 100,000.

"The decline in suicide rates from 2018 to 2019 may be the beginning of a practice, and that is very acceptable," said Drs. Maria Oquendo, chair of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, who did not participate. lesson. "This data tells us that some of the increases we are seeing among small groups also seem to be going up."

"The increase we are seeing in a few people is worrying, and may not have anything to do with the epidemic because we saw an increase in 2019," Oquendo said, noting that this was not always the case. "Anything that happens in these communities is very worrying because it has historically been protected from suicidal behavior."

Oquendo also stressed that suicide among American Indians and Alaskan Native Americans remains alarmingly high, with almost three times as many as Black or Hispanic Americans.

"I would like to emphasize that the highest rates among AIAN people have been around for a long time," he said. "This is something that needs a lot of attention."

Some people at high risk of suicide, such as LGBTQ Americans, are not included in CDC data, Oquendo said.

"We know from data collected about suicide elsewhere that young people are at greater risk of suicide," she said. "But because the CDC did not store data on that information historically, we don't really know what the suicide rates are in this figure. It's a gap in our knowledge."

Has the epidemic made things worse?

According to Craig Bryan, director of the Suicide Prevention Program at Ohio State University, the 2020 data follows a long-standing dilemma of people learning to commit suicide.

"Historically, we know that in times of crisis we often see a decline in suicide," he told NBC News. “Has the epidemic made things worse? That’s what a lot of people thought would happen, and I expect this epidemic to make things worse for some people and make things better for others. ”

A study of 21 middle-income and middle-income countries, published in April in The Lancet, found that suicide among the first months of the pandemic remained the same or lower than predictable pre-epidemic rates. Preliminary data from the CDC revealed that, it reported a 14 percent drop in American suicide in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

"This is not the big change we see every year," said Curtin, noting that this was also a solid time.