The number of suicides in 2020 declined in comparison to 2019, despite an increase in some risk factors associated with suicidal behavior, including pandemic-related job loss, financial strain, and deteriorating mental health, according to new federal statistics.
The number of annual suicides in the US increased steadily from 2003 through 2018, followed by a 2% decline between 2018 and 2019. There was concern that deaths due to suicide would increase in 2020, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.
The provisional numbers show 45,855 deaths by suicide in the US in 2020 — 3% lower than in 2019 (47,511), and 5% below the 2018 peak of 48,344 suicides, report Sally Curtin, MA, and colleagues with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The data were published online November 3 in the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) Vital Statistics Rapid Release.
On a monthly basis, the number of suicides was lower in 2020 than in 2019 in March through October and December — with the largest drop happening in April 2020 at a time when deaths from COVID-19 were peaking, the authors note. In April 2020, suicide deaths were 14% lower than in April 2019 (3468 vs 4029).
The provisional age-adjusted suicide rate was 3% lower in 2020 (13.5 per 100,000) than in 2019 (13.9 per 100,000). It was 2% lower among men (21.9 compared with 22.4), and 8% lower for women (5.5 compared with 6.0).
Suicide rates among younger adults aged 10 to 34 years rose slightly between 2019 and 2020 but was only significant in those 25 to 34, with a 5% increase between 2019 and 2020.
Individuals aged 35 to 74 years had significant declines in suicide with the largest drop in those aged 45 to 54 years and 55 to 64 years.
Women in all race and Hispanic-origin groups showed declines in suicide rates between 2019 and 2020, but the decline was significant only among non-Hispanic white women (10%).
Suicide rates declined for non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Asian men but increased among non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic men.
This analysis is based on more than 99% of expected death records. Based on previous patterns between provisional and final data, these provisional findings are expected to be consistent with final 2020 data, the authors say.
The study had no commercial funding. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
NVSS Vital Statistics Rapid Release. Published November 3, 2021. Full text
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