Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Suicide and Middle Life

The CDC reported yesterday a 20% increase in suicide amongst middle age adults, particularly 45-54 years old.

A new five-year analysis of the nation’s death rates recently released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds increased nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the latest year studied, far outpacing changes in nearly every other age group. (All figures are adjusted for population.)

For women 45 to 54, the rate leapt 31 percent. By contrast, the suicide rate for 15-to-19-year-olds increased less than 2 percent during that five-year period — and decreased among people 65 and older.
This is big news on a number of fronts. First, it continues the trend noted earlier that suicide is not predominantly a problem amongst the very young or very old society. And second, because the nature of suicide requires a "psychological autopsy" to be done in order to determine factors which increase the likelihood of such an outcome, data is difficult to obtain regarding the motivation and "why" of such an increase.

But one theme which does emerge, according to the CDC, is drug usage, both of an illicit and prescription nature, and anomie.
At the moment, the prime suspect is the skyrocketing use — and abuse — of prescription drugs. During the same five-year period included in the study, there was a staggering increase in the total number of drug overdoses, both intentional and accidental, like the one that recently killed the 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger. Illicit drugs also increase risky behaviors, C.D.C. officials point out, noting that users’ rates of suicide can be 15 to 25 times as great as the general population.
We may be seeing ancillary costs associated with our fascination and use of drugs in this country, and the costs may be coming in the form of bone and flesh.

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