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Rise in Middle-Aged Suicides Linked to Great Recession

PHOTO: With the Great Recession leading to unemployment, foreclosures and other financial difficulties, there was also an increase in the number of middle-aged and older adults in the U.S. who took their own lives. Photo credit: Victor/Flickr.
PHOTO: With the Great Recession leading to unemployment, foreclosures and other financial difficulties, there was also an increase in the number of middle-aged and older adults in the U.S. who took their own lives. Photo credit: Victor/Flickr.
March 9, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – There's been a significant increase in suicides among middle-aged and older adults, and it appears a portion of the rise can be attributed to the Great Recession.

A new study shows that suicide rates in the U.S. for those aged 40 to 64 rose sharply from 2007 to 2010, and external economic factors were often present, such as job loss or home foreclosure.

Those financial struggles often impact other areas of people's lives, according to Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

"When financial woes hit, it hurts the pocketbook, but it also hurts the relationship with spouses and with children and not being able to provide for them,” he points out.

“You're also not as connected to the people you were [connected to] at work when you were working, so friendships seem to be impacted by this as well."

Nationally, the number of people who die by suicide is now more than 40,000 per year, including more than 600 in Minnesota, with men about four times as likely as women to take their own lives.

In addition to the pressure from financial, legal and relationship issues, Reidenberg says the vast majority of those who die by suicide have substance-abuse problems or underlying mental health issues, such as untreated depression.

"So we need people to recognize when somebody is really struggling,” he stresses. “When their sleep patterns are off. When their eating patterns are off. When they're withdrawing from normal activities. And when they talk about things such as 'My family would be better off without me' or 'My friends don't seem to care if I'm around anymore.' "

Those who are contemplating suicide or know someone who is can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN