Deaths by suicide increased 4% in 2021 compared to 2020, ending a two-year decline, according to provisional data released by the National Center for Health Statistics on Sept. 30. A total of 47,646 deaths were recorded as suicides during 2021, at a rate of about 14 deaths per 100,000 people.
The largest increases were among men—especially young men. The age-adjusted suicide rate rose by about 3% among males in 2021 and by 2% among females (although the increase among females was not statistically significant) compared to 2020. The greatest increase among males—8%—occurred among ages 15 to 24. In 2020, suicide was the third leading cause of death for people in that age group, and the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 14 and 25 to 34. Past research has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for young people, who have been found to be more likely than older adults to report symptoms of depression and anxiety during the crisis.
Suicide deaths in the U.S. decreased during the 1980s and 90s, but they have been generally increasing (except for slight declines during some years) for the last two decades. In 2021, just 1% fewer people died by suicide than in 2018, which is the year with the highest suicide rate since 1942.
Experts emphasize that the causes of suicide are complex, and there are many risk factors. Though the report does not speculate about what may have contributed to increased rates in 2021, other researchers have warned that fallout from the pandemic—such as job loss, increased stress, and social isolation—could create a “perfect storm” that may contribute to an increase in suicides.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental-health crisis or contemplating suicide, call or text 988. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.
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