The number of Americans committing suicide is almost back at record levels after the Covid pandemic, official figures show.
There were 48,183 suicides in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was just 161 deaths below the record in 2018. That is the equivalent of a suicide every 10 minutes throughout the whole of 2021.
The rise — which reverses a two-year downward trend — was driven by a spike in suicides among 25 to 44-year-olds and among young Black adults.
Experts have blamed climbing suicides on worsening mental health, job losses during the pandemic and rising gun ownership rates.
The above graph shows the number of suicides recorded in the United States by year from 2000. It reveals that they are now trending upward again, after a two-year decline. But suicides in America have been trending upward for decades
For the analysis published today, experts looked at data from the National Vital Statistics System — which records all births and deaths in the nation.
The number of suicides registered in 2021 was up five percent on the previous year’s tally and a fifth higher than a decade ago.
It was just shy of the record in 2018 when 48,344 suicides were recorded.
Experts can’t pin the uptick on a single factor, but warn that economic downturns and worsening mental health tend to be linked to changes in statistics.
There are no figures for suicides by state for 2021 at present. But the above map shows the rates for 2020, revealing that Wyoming and Montana had the highest suicide rates
Experts warned when the Covid pandemic struck that America’s suicide rate would surge — because of the economic hardships.
But numbers actually fell in the first year of the pandemic, which was attributed to the community spirit fostered during the scariest days of Covid.
Reacting to provisional data released earlier last year, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) said the rise was ‘disappointing’.
But she added: ‘However, what had been predicted at the beginning of the pandemic was that there would be a major escalation.’
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, the foundation added.
The White House is currently beefing up mental health services for the country with $1 billion over five years to improve offerings in schools and for children struggling with psychological problems in the community.
In the report — published today in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series — experts also compared demographic groups.
Broken down by age group, they found those in the 25 to 44-year-old age group had the highest suicide rate — at 18.8 suicides per 100,000 people.
They were followed by 45 to 64-year-olds (17.6) and the over-65s (17.3).
Those in the youngest age group covered, 10 to 24-year-olds, were at the lowest risk of suicide (11 per 100,000).
Broken down by ethnic group, the data showed people in the American Indian group had the highest suicide rate (28.1 suicides per 100,000).
They were followed by white people (17.4) and native Hawaiians (12.6). At the other end of the scale was the Asian ethnicity (6.8).
But compared to previous years the CDC also noted ‘significant increases’ among young black persons aged 10 to 24 years old.
The data was not broken down by gender or state, although previous reports have suggested that Montana has the highest rate in the US.
On the causes, they said: ‘Suicide is a complex problem related to multiple risk factors such as relationship, job or school, and financial problems, as well as mental illness, substance use, social isolation, historical trauma, barriers to health care, and easy access to lethal means of suicide among persons at risk.’
Limitations of the study included that some people may have been assigned to the wrong ethnic group.