Midlife Suicides Show Surprising Increase

The midlife crisis just got a lot darker than buying a fancy sports car or having an affair. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say suicide rates among middle aged people in the United States have increased significantly in a recent five-year period.

The CDC's analysis showed that suicide rates among people age 45 to 54 increased almost 20 percent during the period studied (1999 to 2004). In that same period, other age groups experienced smaller increases or even declines.

Overall, more than 32,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States. Nearly 80 percent of suicides are committed by men, although women attempt suicide more often than men. Within the 45 to 54 age group, the suicide rate for women increased 31 percent from 1999 to 2004.

The increase among middle-age people is puzzling to physicians and statisticians. That's because suicide has stood out as a major risk among other age groups, notably teens and young adults, where it is the third leading cause of death, and among elderly people, where the highest suicide rate can be found among white men over age 85. The attention to suicide risk in the very old and very young has led to awareness programs among families, schools, medical professionals and caregivers.

But such attention is lacking, or perhaps less developed, in the middle age group. Many adults in their 40s and 50s may be more focused on the health (mental and physical) of their children or parents. At the same time, they may be neglecting themselves.

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