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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




1d6f694a30012e2a200ad3b740da4dd6Long standing trends in life expectancy and death rates in America are changing in unexpected ways.

The decade long steady decrease in the death rate for middle-age white Americans has turned around in the last few years.

On the whole the US mortality rate has declined about 2 percent per year, meaning that people live longer.

The sudden change in directions comes as a an abrupt surprise to researchers.

Evidence for this change comes from a 2016 article by Princeton Economist and Nobel Prize Laureate Angus Deaton“Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.”

Deaton says that the changes in mortality rates came as such a surprise to the researchers that “pretty quickly we started falling off our chairs because of what we found.”

What he found is “a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013.”

The observed increase in mortality is significant because; “this changeMortality_by_age reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround.”

Confirmation of Deaton’s findings come from a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CCD), “Changes in Life Expectancy by Race and Hispanic Origin in the United States, 2013–2014,” led by demographer Elizabeth Arias.

Aris’s findings are that white American women are dying at younger ages.

That is, the life expectancy of white American women declined from from 81.2 years to 81.1 years

That is a small change, but it does mean that the steady increase in life expectancy for white American women has stopped and even slightly reversed.

No one knows why these changes are occurring and there is no basis to suppose that life expectancies will continue to decline.

The CDC defines Life Expectancy as; “the average number of years that a hypothetical group of infants would live at each attained age if the group was subject, throughout its lifetime, to the age-specific death rates prevailing for the actual population in a given year.”

It is important to understand how the science of life expectancy and death rate measurements works so that we may draw warranted inferences and recognize the limits of such knowledge.

In that spirit I will continue to study the current research and report it to you.

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

Image Acknowledgements

Dance Macabre, c. 1744 Antonio Steinhauer.jpg

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