American Suicide Rates Rise Since The Great Recession

A day in the life of a senior citizen can be painful. This age cohort is the fastest growing group of people in the USA.
A day in the life of a senior citizen can be painful. This age cohort is the fastest growing group of people in the USA. | Source

War and Economics

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show us that the American Suicide Rate overall declined during the Reagan, Bush 41, and Bill Clinton Presidencies, but began a steady increase under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Have the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars from 2008 - present and the Great Recession 2008 - 2010 played a part in this increase?

Holidays - Holy or Hell?

Much media attention has been put to the beliefs that American suicide rates increase on Mother's Day and Christmas. Now we are told that such beliefs are old wives' tales.

You cannot prove it by Craig Ferguson, who tells audiences that he intended to commit suicide on one Christmas Day via bridge jumping, but was distracted by his nemesis, alcoholic beverages. He accepted a drink with which to join in with a toast to Jesus's Birth and forgot to commit suicide.

While investigating suicide in America, I discovered that such rates increased after the beginning of the Great Recession under President George W. Bush in 2008. These facts are more interesting that the holiday-suicide connection, which is tenuous at best.

CDC Statistics Confirm Rise In Suicide Rates

Major Reference: Jiaquan Xu, M.D.; Kenneth D. Kochanek, M.A.; Sherry L. Murphy, B.S.; Elizabeth Arias, Ph.D. Mortality in the United States, 2012. CDC; October 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db168.htm

The Oldest Exit in Larger Numbers

The suicide rate for elders ages 85 and older during the Great Recession and its aftermath increased the most among all age cohorts. From the years 2000 through 2007, the suicide rate of elders declined from 19.7 to 17.0 per 100,000. Beginning in 2008, the rate increased to 2013.

No matter who wins the White House in 2016, there's no getting around it: Social Security benefits will be cut starting in 2017. A 1983 pact between President Reagan and the Democrat-led Congress to stave off an imminent Social Security financing crisis included a hike in the official retirement age from 65 to 67.

— Investor's Business Daily at news.investors.com 5/14/2015

All Age Cohorts 45 to 85+ Increased in Suicide Rate 2008 - 2013

Year
Age 85+
Age 45 - 64
Age 65 - 84
2008
16.4
17.5
14.6
2009
16.4
18.0
14.5
2010
17.6
18.6
14.5
2011
16.9
18.8
15.5
2012
17.8
19.1
15.7
2013
18.6
19.1
15.9
Increases '08 - '13
+2.2 per 100,000
+1.6 per 100,000
+1.3 per 100,000
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, figures for most current year: 2013. Rates are expressed as some number (16.4, etc.) per 100,000 people in the age cohort.

Generations Y and Z

The suicide rate of young people ages 15 to 24 increased slightly from 9.9 to 10.9 per 100,000 people in this age cohort. This is a change of 1.0, a change that is significantly lower than the changes seen among the age cohorts in the table above. People ages 45 - 85+ are at much higher risk of suicide.

Soldiers In War and Civilian Settings

Us Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as soldiers who never went to war, comprise another group at-risk for suicide. Their rate beginning in 2008 reached 19.0 per 100,000 soldiers and then increased to 30 per 100,000 soldiers in 2012.

The rate began to decrease in 2013 (National Institute of Mental Health. The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry; March 2014 ). This was President Obama's fifth year in office and the third year after the Great Recession. Decreases in suicides among military people include:

  • In 2013, active duty soldiers committed suicide at the rate of 18.7 per 100,000, which is under the 22.7 per 100,000 of 2012.
  • In comparison, the active-military rates in 2013 were overall as high or higher than for our older Baby Boomers and ages 85+; but military rates seem to be further declining.
  • References: US Department of Defense, Military Times; January 2015. National Institute of Mental Health.

Will your money run out before your time?
Will your money run out before your time? | Source

Causes for Choosing an Exit Among Elders

The suicide rate for the Oldest Old, as we call them in public health and preventive medicine, began a clear increase in 2008 and continued to increase overall through 2013. Figures for 2014 are not available at this writing.

What caused the increase among older people?

My idea is that many senior citizens commit suicide, because they have little monthly income and cannot find a place to live. Many others are terminally ill and can no longer tolerate their ill health. Some more fully specific reasons include the following data.

  • In 2013, the rate of suicide for men overall was 3.5 times the rate for women overall; however, the oldest cohort contains a majority of women. In addition, the CDC reports that women attempt suicide three times as often as do men. My opinion is that as these women age, they are more likely to be successful, especially in using poisons that can affect the aging body more quickly than they impact younger bodies. It is true - men more often use firearms, women more often use poison.
  • A certain proportion of elderly deaths are attributable to Assisted Suicide, allowable in some US States at this writing (Washington, Oregon, Vermont, parts of New Mexico; decriminalized in Montana).
  • Interestingly, the highest rates of suicide by US State occurred in 2013 in five western states: Montana (23.7/100,000), Alaska (23.1), Utah (21.4), Wyoming (21.4), and New Mexico (20.3).
  • Bullying can lead to suicide. Bullying does not end at any age cohort. Bullying and abuse affect various individuals at the ages of birth to old-age death, and any stage in between the end points. The elderly can more easily than younger adults who are more mobile people with more resources. They can succumb to bullying by family members, inmates in retirement centers, certain nursing home staff, and many others. I see independent older persons bullied in the marketplace as well.
  • For several years, the suicide rates have been higher among 1) Caucasians and 2) Native North Americans than among other ethic groups in the USA. Moreover, the rates of suicide among these two groups steady increased from 2000 through 2013, much less dramatically for the native group. Thus, older white women are committing suicide at the highest rate of increase 2008 - 2013.

The decline of much of old age can be painful, and much more painful than need be.
The decline of much of old age can be painful, and much more painful than need be. | Source

The Median monthly cost of assisted living in America rose to approximately $3,600 in 2014 - 2015.

— Senior Living Price Index by A Place For Mom,

Avg. SS Income March 2015

The average Social Security Retirement check is for $1,286.21.

.

The average check for a spouse of a retired worker is only $676.50

.

Such a level of income cannot pay for necessities.

The Rising Age of Possible Retirement

Full-Retirement Ages

Born in year 1937 & earlier = age 65.

  • Retirement age increases by months, every year with results like these:

Born 1943 - 1954 = age 66.

Born in 1960 - 1969 = Age 67.

...

Born in 1990 - 1999 = Age 70 or older.

Born in 2000 - 2009 = Age 71 or older.

Retirement age increases, until it reaches 75, made possible by the US Congress under President Reagan. Further, the age can be raised by the US Congress at any time.

A large number of senior citizens ages 55 and older are experiencing financial difficulties.
A large number of senior citizens ages 55 and older are experiencing financial difficulties. | Source

Additional Reasons for the Increased Rate Among Elders

  • I find that many older Baby Boomers and those over 85 run out of money, suffer abuse, lose jobs and homes, and ultimately have no place to live. Not enough affordable senior apartments exist and waiting lists are often years long. Retirement centers are often too expensive and families often will not take in the elder person. In addition, some of the oldest old have no living families left to them. Ohio seems a particularly difficult place in which to find a place to live if one is over 55. Further, the state has only one shelter facility for the elderly abused. Our state, and likely many others, need affordable senior housing and additional emergency housing for the elderly abused.
  • The economic decline of 2008 - 2010 likely caused some suicides among older people, and probably some people of all adult ages, who lost their careers, retirement income, and life savings.
  • The usual causes of suicide affect the oldest old and the Baby Boomers as well - mental illness, substance abuse, and physical brain problems as well as a number of physical illnesses. For instance, many cannot tolerate the idea of living with Lou Gehrig Disease, the dementias, or Parkinson's Disease (Robin Williams, age 63).

Watch for Signs of Suicide and Remember the Hotline!

Since suicide in America is on the increase, be aware of the signs of impending suicide or suicide attempt. Keep the Suicide Hotline Number in your wallet or purse in order to help other or yourself.

  • Suicide Prevention Hotline, USA: 1-800-273-8255
  • Suicide or Crisis Hotline, Canada: 1-800-448-3000

Do you know a homeless older individual - or any homeless person? How can we help, one at a time?
Do you know a homeless older individual - or any homeless person? How can we help, one at a time? | Source

Disclaimer: Patty Inglish, MS is degreed in psychology and preventive medicine, with supervised internships and research in health psychology, employee stress, pain and stress, and other areas. Member, APA.

This Hub is not meant to be a diagnosis or treatment. If you or someone you know in North America shows suicidal thoughts or behaviors, contact the

  • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 in the USA
  • Suicide or Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-3000 in Canada

© 2015 Patty Inglish

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Comments 27 comments

Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr Billy Kidd 16 months ago from Sydney, Australia

Thank you for this important information. I'm saddened that young people and veterans have such high rates of suicide--from feeling isolated or alone with their problems, and just left to themselves, I believe.

You write so well you might consider a PhD program. You are truly an accomplished writer!!!


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 16 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I wonder if the suicide option is becoming more socially acceptable. I hear middle-aged people speak of their not wanting to live into their 90s and of their intending to kill themselves first, having been caretakers of their parents in those years of dementia and decline.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@Dr. Billy Kidd - Thank you very much. I have some advanced studies completed, but the PhD programs in which I would participate are extremely too expensive; and, one such program has no classes, only up to 10 solid years of performing research for a professor at a pay rate of under $1,000/month. I must look into it in the future, however. Thanks change.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@B.Leekley - That is surely a cause to consider. In fact, my sense is that older folks with terminal illnesses and pain are sometimes encouraged to commit suicide, even if Assisted Suicide is illegal in their state. Some people move to a state where it IS legal; I've recently read about a woman who did so.

In a private practice, we once had an older male patient who spent a few days in a homeless shelter. He told us that the younger homeless men told him - insisted - that he should commit suicide, because he was using resources he did not deserve because of advanced age. He did not commit suicide, but he was quite upset with the attitude and bullying.


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 16 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I was living across the border in Idaho a few years ago when the citizens of Washington voted in favor of the proposition to allow physician-assisted suicide. An organization of disabled persons, including a quadriplegic friend, demonstrated in opposition (wearing t-shirts that said "Not Dead Yet") because of fear that the proposition was a step toward it becoming socially acceptable to urge and pressure the severely disabled to commit suicide.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

That is profound! I do like the "Not Dead Yet" T-shirt. I've always said that, if on life support, I am to remain plugged in and medicos are to look for more plugs.

The media are in the act - do you recall a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode in which a certain planet required all adults to commit suicide at age 65? I was concerned that the show seemed to condone it. We might end up a planet populated only with the target sales demographic - 18 to 49 years of age.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 16 months ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Thank you once more for a Stellar Article. Professionalism is what makes this Hub shine so brightly.

Personally, I am having a hard time witnessing the further degradation of the value of people, in our country.

Children, the elderly, the poor, People of Color are devalued by lack of funding from those who are sent/elected to do the Best for their constituents.

These numbers are staggering, and I do work for suicide awareness and prevention on a daily basis, but we should be reeling over on the ground moaning the senseless loss of so many souls who are needed. Young people are our Today, not our Future. Good soldiers who honor human rights are needed. The elderly are the wisdom for making our paths.

Five Stars and Two Thumbs up, shared.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@LillyGillzit - Thank you so much for reading this Hub and leaving such a comment! We can see a lot of pain in this country, can we not?

We have a need for emergency senior housing and affordable assisted living and it's time for me to write to the White House about looking into this.


Melissa Orourke profile image

Melissa Orourke 16 months ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

Excellent hub! My mother is almost 90. She is in an Assisted Living Facility, which costs about $6,000 a month. (average for Massachusetts). I thank God, we encouraged her to get long term health care insurance years ago. However, that will be running out soon and we need to sell her house. She is happy at the Assisted Living and feels that she gets great care, a relief for all of us. My father chose to die years ago, he refused a partial amputation and Septicemia took over. One nurse, actually encouraged his decision. She told me my father was tired. He was 78. We have a lot of work to do in our Country for both the elderly and the young. Life is worth living.... Thank you for an informative Hub. Voted Thumbs up!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@Melissa - I feel bad about your father! I also am happy for your mother. I agree that we have much work to do to preserve the good life left to our Seniors. I will defintely contact the White House, hoping someone will look into this.


Theresa Jonathan profile image

Theresa Jonathan 16 months ago from Maseru, Lesotho

A beautiful Hub! Suicide is associated with social ills caused by inhumane policies. Politician seek global fame and forget that the first responsibility is to sort out the domestic issues. It is also a spiritual concern that we tend to forget that God created everything and set rules in Leviticus 19:32

'You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD"

State funds are collection of taxes from the same people who are neglected. Democracy enable us to choose wise persons to make decisions for all resources provided by God. The escalation of suicides reveals the wisdom of providing huge budgets for war technology and simply the prospects of going to other planets! Can anyone show us if this how we comply to one law - LOVE God and OTHERS!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@Theresa Jonathan - Thank you for sharing this wisdom! We need to take care of the aged and we need to recognize that often, those who pay the taxes are denied help from the program their taxes support. This is not morally correct.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 16 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

These are very sad statistical realities. I am not at all surprised. Being 'wiped out' leaves a bad taste in ones mouth. Not many people I know are solvent.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

Same with me, mckbirdks - so many people have lost their houses.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 16 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

This is really an eye opener! Many elderly are also preyed upon by scammers on the Internet and telephone. It is difficult for them to say no to phone solicitors as well, even though they have a limited income. They want to help others, and will go without if they think that they can help someone in need.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 16 months ago from USA

These are staggering, sad statistics. We don't seem to have the network of social support that we used to.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@denise.w.anderson - It certainly is startling!

A new elder scam is a rental scam - people advertise for a senior or retired person to come rent a wonderful-sounding room from them with lots of privileges. After a deposit and the first month's rent, the Sheriff comes to the door to demand immediate vacating because the house is being auctioned. In large apartments, it's the landlord or process server that comes to the door with an eviction notice.

Some of these seniors have difficulty walking and cannot lift, and to have to move at a moment's notice (eviction takes longer) is impossible.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

FlourishAway - Even my own friends who have 10-15 years left to work are physically deteriorated, can't get to the phone, and can't remember to charge cellphones. Diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, fibromyalgia, injuries, and a number of others have hit this group hard. I can never get hold of anyone anymore!


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 16 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Patty

Fascinating piece about one of society's scourges. Much of what you talk about isn't just a problem for America but the rest of the world and some countries have come up with different ways of dealing with it.

There's a lot more to be said I'm sure, but well done for highlighting the discussion

Lawrence


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 16 months ago from North America Author

@lawrence01 -

I was stopped in my tracks when I saw for the first time, a homeless Korean senior citizen in Ohio. This is unheard of in many Asian countries. Comfort may be taken in a homeless housing network in my city, but we need more.

Recently reading a travel history of Cuba written by a journalist who sponsors writers' tours every year to that nation, I was impressed that he told time and again how the residents of Cuba make sure that everyone has a place to sleep - an extra couch in a home, a place in a barn on clean hay, a cot on a back porch; very creative.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 16 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Patty

The amazing thing is in many asian countries ther is no social security! They expect that the children will take care of the parents.

I remember when I was stationed in Germany seeing three storey houses with three generations living there. When I asked a German friend they told me that it was a FAMILY home and grandparents lived at the bottom, parents in the middle and kids got their place at the top! I really hope it hasn't changed.

Here in NZ most folks work on after sixty five mostly because they don't want to lose their standard of living, but they do start to cut back so that by 70 they're ready to stop. They get the government pension at 65 but are allowed to carry on if they want to (that way the government doesn't have to pay so much)/

Have a good weekend

Lawrence


kj force profile image

kj force 15 months ago from Florida

Patty...Society and Family play a large part in this increase . Many people are overwhelmed and taking on care of the elderly is a heavy burden. A feeling of

" worthlessness" is ever present as life becomes less important, and death appears the only way out. It is sad, but when you feel unimportant...I feel the right to choose should be an option to all of "terminal " state.

Just my thoughts on the subject..well written and thought provoking


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

What you say resonates with many people. Elder abuse seems to be increasing in Ohio - How is it in Florida?


kj force profile image

kj force 15 months ago from Florida

DISGUSTING....Whether in their own home or a nursing home...the " basics" are met...no one wants to step up and this age group is referred to as the " used tissue " as many are un-useable except to exploit. The healthcare system here is deplorable ! much of the ins. system is a scam ! Yeah they do go thru the "motions "

though, it's all about pretense and PROFIT $$$$...Ohio started dropping the ball back in the 70's...remember Singleton Nursing Home ?

on the other hand there was Margaret Wagner Home that was top notch...Abuse is a National Issue now..

Thanks for bringing this subject to attention..

I personally will be doing a first hand write on my own

experiences just recently... as I observed for the very first time as" the patient" after 38 yrs of Medical practice ...now bitter and disgusted...


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

I will look forward to your writing about this national problem. I doo remember the horrors of the Singleton case. Disgusting, as you say. Thanks a million for posting a comment!


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 13 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

I think another issue is the lack of appropriate pain management for disabled and elderly people. People are so concerned about drug abuse that people living with severe, chronic pain often can't get appropriate pain management. The power of doctors to prescribe what they think is best for their patients has been undermined by the war on drugs. Doctors who adequately manage their patients' pain are in danger of legal repercussions.

I think this is the reason behind the mysterious decrease in suicide rates in states where medical marijuana has been legalized; people who were living in the hell of un-managed severe, chronic pain can now get some relief.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 13 months ago from North America Author

Kylyssa, I think you may be right! I notice our general practitioners in my area are refusing to prescribe narcotics at all.

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    Patty Inglish (Patty Inglish, MS)6,757 Followers
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