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Suicide rates highest since WWII

Posted by / July 15, 2019

In 2017, 14 out of every 100,000 people took their own lives. That’s the highest number of suicides per capita since World War Two, and a whopping 33% increase since 1999.

The spike in suicides raises challenging questions. Suicides are on the rise among a variety of demographics, so it’s not just one group of people suffering. Males tend to commit suicide more often than women––a historical trend that still holds true––but suicides among women are rising more quickly than among men. Since 1999%, for example, there has been a 57% increase of suicides among women compared to 26% among men. Young girls between 10-14 are seeing the sharpest increase of any other age group.

Just as there is no single group driving the suicide epidemic, there is also no single cause. Opioid use is certainly one reason for the rise of suicides. Social media may also be a major contributor––social media causes a feedback loop of hollow, unsatisfying facsimiles of social interactions. As these tainted interactions come to supplant real interactions, people are bound to suffer.

There is one other possibility, however. It is possible that suicides are simple better recorded and reported now than they were in the past. Past suicides could have been misinterpreted as murders or accidents, or else they could have been intentionally misrecorded to save the reputation of the dead. The former seems likely since mental health issues related to suicide are relatively recently understood.

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