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CDC: US suicides hit record high in 2022

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-12-04 10:32

The number of suicides in the United States reached a record high last year, as life expectancy rose slightly but was still far below pre-pandemic levels. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More Americans committed suicide in 2022 than at any other time on record. There were 49,449 suicides last year, a 3 percent rise on 2021, when 48,183 took their own lives, according to the new report by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The NCHS examined all death records from last year up to Aug 6, 2023. It found that there were 14.3 suicides per 100,000 people, the highest number seen since 1941, the CDC said.

The authors said that the numbers could be higher when with final figures in December.

"Reporting of suicides in particular can be delayed due to investigations regarding the cause and circumstances surrounding the death," the authors noted.

White men 75 and older had the highest rate of suicide by a firearm in 2022, nearly 44 per 100,000.

Last year, the suicide rate for men was 1 percent higher than in 2021, at 23.1 per 100,000 compared with 22.8 percent. Among women, it was 4 percent higher at 5.9 per 100,000 compared with 5.7 in 2021. Overall, men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

Suicide rates also rose among men 35 and older but fell for those age 34 and younger. For women, rates rose among those 25 and older but declined for those 24 and younger.

Some of the lowest rates were found among youths age 10 to 14 as suicides fell by 18 percent in that range. It fell by 9 percent among 15- to 24-year-olds, for the first time in a decade.

Last year, the government's Suicide and Crisis Lifeline got a national number 988 to help those suffering. It has reported a huge surge in calls from people desperate for help.

The number of people who took their own lives also varied by race and ethnicity. American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest rate, at 26.7 deaths per 100,000.

Life expectancy, the estimated time that a baby will live from birth is now 77.5 years, comparable to 20 years ago.

Suicides and drug overdoses along with deaths from heart disease are key indicators of life expectancy.

At least 1.1 million deaths in the US were attributed to COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic in 2020, figures show. The respiratory illness caused life expectancy to fall from 78.8 years in 2019 to 76.4 years in 2021.

Karen Cassiday, a clinical psychologist, managing director of The Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago and past president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, believes that the COVID-19 pandemic caused immense stress, which could explain the surge in suicides and substance abuse.

"The pandemic had several unique characteristics that lent themselves to triggering anxiety, depression," Cassiday told China Daily.

The aftereffects of the pandemic lowered life expectancy for all racial groups as of last year. In 2022, Native Americans saw a decline of nearly four years to 68. African Americans saw life expectancy rates decline by two years. Hispanics saw a 1.9-year-drop, White people had a 1.3-year fall, and Asians lost 1.1 years.

Dr William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University medical center in Nashville, Tennessee, told China Daily that while we have made great strides forward, COVID-19 "will never disappear or vanish".

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