vandeVeldeWillemY_EnglishShipInAGale_1690Life expectancy for Americans overall has taken a slight but abrupt turn downwards.

This is significant because it marks an end to the continuous increase in American life expectancy since the 1970s.

Part of this change is due to increase in the number of Americans committing suicide.

People killing themselves in the United States has risen to it’s highest level in nearly 30 years.

In 2014, 43,000 Americans took their own lives [].

Globally about 800,000 people die from suicide each year [].

Men are far more prone to suicide than women; in 25,848 American men killed themselves as opposed to 6711 American women in 2005 [].

The suicide rate among women, however, is accelerating.

The most affected group is middle-aged adults.  Since 1999 the suicide rate for this age group has increased 40%.

Since 2007 the rate of completed suicides among 144px-LifelinelogoAmericans aged 40–64 years escalated sharply.

Three recent studies shed light on the reasons for these increases, because the primary factors propelling middle-aged suicide are economic.

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 coincides with the dramatic surge of American suicide.

In “Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007–2009″ (Phillips, 2014) studies suicide reporting collected by states to find that “suicide rates for individuals between the ages of 35 and 64 rose sharply during the first decade of the 21st century, an unusual pattern since suicide rates for this age group have either been stable or declining for decades” and that “Increasing unemployment proves to be a potent explanation for the rise in suicide rates among the middle-aged.”

That studies shows that economic factors did not have the same impacts among the young and the elderly.

A study led by Kathleen Fowler, “Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis” (Fowler, 2015), 10023282_5d37f3d84f_bdemonstrated that home foreclosures and evictions are closely correlated with increasing suicides.

Eviction and foreclosure-related suicides doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Taken alone, foreclosure-related suicides, which increased 253% in that five year period.

Hempstead and Phillips used national data on causes of death to confirm the relationship of circumstances related to economic crisis to middle-aged suicides.

They also found that “suffocation is a method more likely to be used in suicides related to job, economic, or legal factors, and its use increased disproportionately among the middle-aged.”

While various means of dispatching oneself remain in use, “suicides using suffocation increased 59.5% among those aged 40–64 years between 2005 and 2010.”

Taken together this new knowledge indicates ways to focus on people in desperate situations.

If suicide among middle-aged and otherwise health people is a public health issue, then our health systems must take economics into account as factors of concern.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.



Fowler, K.A, Gladden, R.M, et. al. (2015). Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis: Findings From 16 National Violent Death Reporting System States, 2005–2010. American Journal of Public Health, 105:2, 311-316.

Hempstead, Phillips (2015). Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged 40–64 Years: The Role of Job and Financial Circumstances. American Journal of  Preventative Medicine, 48(5):491–500.

Phillips, JA and Nugent, C.N. (2014). Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007–2009 The role of economic factors in the 50 U.S. states. Social Science & Medicine 116 (2014).

World Health Organization: Mental Health


Image Acknowledgements