Suicide Rates Rising for Older Adults
Suicide rates for adults between 40 and 64 years of age in the U.S. have risen about 40 percent since 1999, with a sharp rise since 2007. One possible explanation could be the detrimental effects of the economic downturn of 2007-2009, leading to disproportionate effects on house values, household finances, and retirement savings for that age group. In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that external economic factors were present in 37.5 percent of all completed suicides in 2010, rising from 32.9 percent in 2005. In addition, suffocation, a method more likely to be used in suicides related to job, economic, or legal factors, increased disproportionately among the middle-aged. The number of suicides using suffocation increased 59.5 percent among those aged 40-64 years between 2005 and 2010, compared with 18 percent for those aged 15-39 years and 27.2 percent for aged over 65 years. “Relative to other age groups, a larger and increasing proportion of middle-aged suicides have circumstances associated with job, financial, or legal distress and are completed using suffocation,” noted study authors Katherine A. Hempstead, PhD, Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, NJ, and the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University, and Julie A. Phillips, PhD, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, New Brunswick, NJ. “The sharpest increase in external circumstances appears to be temporally related to the worst years of the Great Recession, consistent with other work showing a link between deteriorating economic conditions and suicide. External circumstances also have increased in importance among those aged over 65 years. Financial difficulties related to the loss of retirement savings in the stock market crash may explain some of this trend.”
David Wingate is an elder law attorney. He practices in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice comprises of wills, powers of attorneys, trusts, asset protection and Medicaid.