U.S. Suicide Rates Declined from 1970-2002

Recent downward trend in suicide rates may suggest reversal of earlier trends

MONDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. suicide rates have fluctuated by age group since 1970, but have demonstrated a general downward trend that might be attributable to an increase in healthy life expectancy and a decline in substance abuse, according to study results published in the Oct. 1 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Robert E. McKeown, Ph.D., of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and colleagues analyzed U.S. suicide data from 1970 to 2002.

The rates among those aged 15-24 continuously increased until 1994, then steadily declined to levels not seen since the early 1970s. Rates among those 65 or older fluctuated during the 1970s, reached a low point in 1981, increased sharply until 1987, declined steadily through 2001 and increased in 2002. Rates among those 45-64 declined sharply during the late 1970s, then only gradually during the 1980s and 1990s, but increased each year from 1999 through 2002. Rates among those 25-44 showed a slight increase during the late 1970s, stabilized during the 1980s and early 1990s, and slightly decreased after 1995 to relatively stable rates from 1999 to 2002.

Reasons for the trends may include the thriving U.S. economy during the 1990s, delays in loneliness and depression thanks to increased healthy life expectancy, and a marked decline in substance abuse from the late 1970s, the authors suggest.

"These trends warrant more extensive analysis…including consideration of additional variables that may influence rates differentially," the authors conclude.

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