science of us

Suicide Is on the Rise — Especially Among Women

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Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that suicide rates are on the rise across the United States, and they have been for nearly two decades, with a more than 30 percent increase in more than half of all states. Accordingly, the CDC is now including suicide among leading causes of death nationwide. And though most suicide victims are men and boys — three or four times as many as women and girls — the rate of suicide among women and girls is increasing, too, and at a faster rate.

Dr. Holly Hedegaard, a medical epidemiologist at the NCHS and the lead author of the new study, says there’s a “sort of a narrowing of the [gender] gap in rates” of suicide between men and women. While the suicide rate for men and boys rose 21 percent between 2000 and 2016, it rose 50 percent for women and girls.

The biggest change was for middle-aged women, between 45 and 64 — in that group, the suicide rate rose 60 percent. Though the study does not establish any direct cause for the increase (and, according to the CDC, very few suicides can be attributed to any one cause), Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist at Emory University and the past president of the American Psychological Association, told NPR that she considers stress a likely contributing factor, especially for women, whose stress rates have also risen in recent decades.

But more young women are dying by suicide, too, as are men and boys, and as such, suicide should be treated as a public health concern, says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, the vice-president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And on an individual level, if you know someone who might be suicidal, talk to them.

Suicide Is on the Rise — Especially Among Women