A Sampling of Suicide Statistics and Trends

Though statistics about suicide only give us a partial understanding of the complexity of this significant public health problem, they do provide us with an important perspective on the breadth and depth of this issue. The following sampling of statistics and trends provide a basic foundation of the incidence of suicide and who is at risk.

Overview of the Problem

Suicide leads to over 38,000 deaths annually in the US, causing more deaths than automobile accidents and as many fatalities as homicide and AIDS combined. As many as 90% of the people who die from suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder, though less than one-third seek treatment. Depression affects nearly 10% of adults in a given year and an estimated 4% will have suicidal thoughts.

Over 5,000,000 Americans have attempted suicide, with woman attempting three times more frequently than men but men being four times more likely to die. In fact, 75% of all suicides in the US are committed by men, the largest percentage from older middle-age and elderly men.

Incidence and Risk

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death of teenagers, 2nd of college students, 2nd of males 25-34, 4th of males 35-54, 3rd of women 15-24, 4th of women 25-44, etc. Suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after 65; for women, rates peak between 45-54, and after age 75.

Though the elderly make up 13% of the population, they represent 18% of the suicides. Among older adults who commit suicide, 20% visited a primary care physician the same day as their suicide, 40% within a week. Many of those who are depressed don’t realize they have depression.

A previous attempt is the leading indicator of suicide risk. About 20% of people who die by suicide have made a prior attempt. Studies show suicide risk appears to be higher in the days and weeks following hospitalization for a suicide attempt. Alcohol and substance abuse is a factor in about 30% of all suicides. Ready access to lethal means increases suicide risk in individuals with depression. Suicide risk can be exacerbated after discharge from an inpatient or residential setting for those at significant risk.

NYC Statistics

About 6% of NYC adults report clinically significant emotional distress; the highest rates are among women, Hispanics, those with low incomes and chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes. Over 50% of the suicides are committed by males age 25-54. Up to one-third of NYC public high school students experience depression annually, 8.4% report a suicide attempt and 2.5% an attempt that required medical care; with young Latinas the largest percentage. Older (65+) and younger (15-24) Asian-American females have higher rates of suicide in NYC.

In the Workplace

A minimum of 7% of full-time workers battle depression. A strong relationship exists between unemployment, the economy and suicide, with unemployed individuals having between two and four times the suicide rate of those employed. Economic strain and personal financial crises have been documented as precipitating events in individual deaths by suicide.

Survivors of Suicide Loss

Over 5,000,000 of Americans have lost a loved one to suicide, with research suggesting that each loss directly impacts at least six people, meaning that close to 600 individuals become a survivor of suicide loss every day.

Sources for this section include: Suicide Prevention Resource Center; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; and NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene.