Mental Health/Suicide Rates

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Mental Health/Suicide Rates

Key Takeaways


Suicide and mental illness have been major issues among the US population for decades. Suicide has been consistently on the rise since the beginning of the twenty-first century. The suicide rate has been the highest among white men throughout the years, but women have been affected more by mental illnesses. The suicide rate and the prevalence of mental illness have also seen a significant increase among the US youth population.

Historical Overview of Suicide Rates in the US

  • In 2019, about 4.58% of the total adult population have reported having suicidal inclinations, an increase of over 664 000 people compared to 2018.
  • Based on the report, the rate of suicidal ideation has been increasing steadily since 2011.
  • Despite that, 2019 and 2020 have seen a decrease in the overall suicide rates among all age groups.
  • In 2020, the number of suicides decreased 5% compared to the previous year, while in 2019, the suicide rate dipped by 2% compared to 2018.
  • The decrease was mainly driven by the lower rate of suicides among white men. The rate of suicide, however, slightly increased among younger adults (15 to 24 years).
  • Currently, the highest rates of suicide happen among people that identify as Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, but the most deaths from suicide occur among Non-Hispanic white men.
  • Men are currently 3.7 times more likely to commit or attempt suicide than women.
  • Overall the suicide rate in the US has been constantly on the rise since 1999, only experiencing a bit of a plateau between 1999 and 2002.
  • The period between 1980 and 1999, however, saw the rate of suicide deaths decrease among all age groups.
  • The rates of suicide for younger adults (between 15 and 24) and people over 65, specifically men, did increase between 1980 and 1992 but fell back down below the 1980 rate by 1996.
  • The years between 2003 and 2014, however, saw the overall rate of suicide increase from 10.5 per 100,000 to 13 per 100,000.
  • During that time the suicide rate for men increased from 17.8 to 20.7 per 100,000, while the suicide rate for women increased from 4 to 5.8 per 100,000.
  • The biggest increase in the number of suicides was seen for both men (30%) and women (38.8%) between the age of 45 and 64.
  • The impact of income status on suicide rates has been ambiguous, as different reports have noted varying outcomes from their studies.
  • However, it has been observed that people that earn less than $34,000 have a 50% higher chance to commit suicide than those that earned $75,000 or more.
  • Similarly, people that were unemployed were 75% more likely to commit suicide.

Historical Overview of the Prevalence of Mental Illness in the US

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20% of U.S. adults, or 51.5 million people, had reported having a mental illness in 2019.
  • This figure increased to 21% in 2020, leading to an annual increase of 1.4 million cases.
  • The number of people that have mental health problems has been on the rise since 2009, despite the overall case of mental disability plateauing between 2010 and 2013.
  • In 2008, the number of people that have experienced mental health issues reached just below 40 million or 17.7% of the total US population.
  • That number rose to about 41.1 million people in 2009 and stayed relatively the same for the next few years.
  • The number of people with mental illness in the US has increased significantly since 1980.
  • The biggest change has been observed in younger adults and adolescents.
  • In 2014, a study published in the Social Indicators Research journal found that adolescents and young adults are two times more likely to visit a mental health specialist and 74% more likely to have trouble sleeping.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health has noted that the prevalence of depression among US youth increased by more than 52% between 2005 and 2017.
  • In 2019, they were the group that was the most affected by mental illnesses.
  • In 2021, 15.1% of all the children between 6 and 17 years old experienced a mental health issue, with 10% of the total children population having severe depression.
  • Females are more likely to experience mental health issues compared to males.
  • While the percentages have varied between the sexes throughout the years, women have remained more likely to suffer from mental illness in the last years.
  • However, people in the LBTQ+ community have the highest prevalence of mental illnesses at 47.4%.
  • People with mixed/multicultural ethnicity and white Americans are also more likely to suffer from mental illnesses compared to other ethnic groups.
  • However, the prevalence of mental health illnesses between the different ethnic groups has not changed significantly in the last 10 years.
  • Interestingly, the prevalence of mental health illnesses seems to increase with the person's income level, but unemployed people appear to have a higher prevalence of mental health issues.

Research Strategy

To find the statistical prevalence of mental illness and the change in suicide rate in the last 40 years, we mainly looked through published studies, reports from the CDC, and statistics presented by the mental health institutes such as the National Alliance of Mental Illnesses and Mental Health America. While most of the data was readily available, information related to some demographic profiles, specifically information about ethnicity and income for the years before 2000, was mostly limited. We have included as many data points that show the change in the prevalence of mental health and suicidal tendencies for the different demographic groups. It is also important to note that the most recent statistics that were published this year are for data collected in 2020.

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