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Overview of Suicide in the U.S.

Suicide, when someone takes their own life, is devastating for families, communities, and society. In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., taking the lives of more than 47,000 people. The same year, an estimated 1.4 million adults 18 years of age and older attempted suicide.

Suicide impacts people of all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, incomes, and communities — yet there are differences within these groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (via WISQARS, as of July 21, 2021), overall rates of suicide are highest in adults ages 45-59 and 85 and older. Many older adults have significant risk factors for suicide, and their attempts are more likely to result in death compared with younger adults. Among people ages 10-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than one-third of U.S. high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless and nearly one-fifth seriously considered suicide in the 12 months before the survey. Adolescents attempt suicide more than any other age category. However, they are less likely to die from the attempt, because they are younger and more physically resilient, less likely to live alone, and resort to less lethal methods than adults. More recently, however, the rate of lethal attempts has increased faster among adolescents than any other age group according to the CDC (via WISQARS, as of July 21, 2021).

There are also differences by gender in suicide risk. Although thinking about suicide is more prevalent in women, men die by suicide at higher rates, partly because they are likely to use a lethal method. Rates of suicide for both men and women have steadily increased since 1999, with a higher annual increase of about 2% since 2006.

According to the CDC (via WISQARS, as of July 21, 2021), comparing suicide rates by race and ethnicity, White individuals have the highest rates (age-adjusted rate of 15.7 per 100,000 people in 2019), followed by American Indians/Alaska Natives (age-adjusted rate of 13.6 per 100,000 people). Though the rate for African American or Black individuals is lower (age-adjusted rate of 7.0 per 100,000 people), the rate among Black youth 10-19 has increased 74% since 2010 (compared to 44% among White youth), gaining recent attention from professionals and underscoring the importance of carefully reviewing data on suicide before developing programs and allocating resources.