The number of people dying by suicide in the United States has increased by approximately 30 percent in the last two decades. And while most deaths related to suicide today are between boys and men, a study published on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics reveals that the number of girls and women who take their own lives is increasing .
"Typically there are three to three times more suicides among men than women," says Dr. Holly Hedegaard, a medical epidemiologist at NCHS and lead author of the new study. In 2016, approximately 21 children or men in 100,000 committed suicide. On the other hand, only six girls or women out of every 100,000 died by suicide that year.
But when Hedegaard and his colleagues compared the increase in suicide death rates between 2000 and 2016, the increase was significantly greater for women – an increase of 21 percent for boys and men, compared to 50 percent for men and women. cent for girls and women.
There is a kind of narrowing of the gap [gender] in rates, "notes Hedegaard.
The greatest change was observed among women in middle age." For women between the ages of 45 and 64 years, the suicide rate increased by 60 percent, "she says." It's a pretty big increase in a relatively short period. "
That the increase for women was more than double the increase for men" really I was surprised, "says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist at Emory University and the past president of the American Psychological Association, who was not involved in the study, saying she finds the general trends for both men and women" disturbing. " .
Scientists still do not know the reasons behind the most pronounced increase in the number of girls and women who take their own lives, says Kaslow. "We are beginning to see these differences, and people have just begun to see this."
Although in each case there are different factors at play, excessive stress is a known risk factor for suicide in general, she says.
"People often die by suicide when they feel totally overwhelmed," says Kaslow.
According to the American Psychological Association, women say that their stress levels have increased in recent years. And the middle-aged women belonging to the sandwich generation are feeling especially the pressure of their many responsibilities at home and at work.
"So they can be looking after children, parents, they have work demands and then more responsibilities". Kaslow says.
There has also been an increase in the number of single-parent households headed by women in recent decades. That means there are more women trying to do everything alone, he says.
"And so there is, more or less, stress everywhere," she says. "They may not have time to take care of themselves, to be kind to themselves, to get the social support they need."
The new report also shows that more and more teenagers choose to end their lives, says Kaslow. So, the problem is not specific for middle-aged women, but for all age groups.
"Suicide is a public health problem," says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide. The statistics published on Thursday underscore the need for a national prevention effort, he adds.
The report also analyzed the means of suicide, as recorded on death certificates, and found that firearms are still an important method, especially for boys and men.
"For men, almost 15 years and older, most suicides [involved] guns," says Hedegaard.
"We know that limiting access to lethal means of any kind can reduce suicide" Harkavy-Friedman says: "especially if it limits access during a time of crisis".
To help prevent suicide, society needs to offer better access to mental health care, he says. And each one of us can make our effort too, watching the warning signs between friends and family.
Keep in mind, she says, if you notice that something is changing in a loved one, friend or colleague. For example, if her mood is changing, she says, "maybe they are more irritable, or withdrawn, maybe they are talking about being a burden."
At times like these, it's important for people to know that you're not alone. "It seems simple," she says. "But it does make a difference."
Copyright NPR 2018.