Lost in the Middle

February 10, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

Proto Magazine

A rise in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans has prompted researchers to investigate factors that may account for the increase and develop strategies to address it. According to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics, middle-aged men and women made up the largest proportion of suicide deaths in 2014, following a substantial rise in suicide rates among both sexes over the previous 15 years. Researchers have proposed that individual risk factors, such as mental illness, do not sufficiently explain this trend, and that other possible influences may include economic insecurities brought about by the recent recession and increasing rates of morbidity and mortality related to chronic health conditions. According to some research, white adults in middle age, especially males, may be particularly vulnerable to these risk factors. “The data suggest that the lives of white middle-aged adults have changed in unexpected ways in recent years,” said David Blumenthal, a physician and president of the New York City-based foundation, The Commonwealth Fund. Suicide prevention organizations and government agencies are working to address the trend through a variety of initiatives, including health systems interventions that mandate depression screening and suicide risk assessment, online resources for at-risk men, and programs that reduce access to firearms and other forms of lethal means.

Spark Extra! Read SPRC’s report on preventing suicide among men in the middle years.