Suicides for Women 45 to 64 Surge 60%; Unhappiest Group in America

CDC: Suicides for Women 45 to 64 Surge 60 Percent

Image: CDC: Suicides for Women 45 to 64 Surge 60 Percent
Late fashion designer Kate Spade, 55 (Walter McBride/AP)

By Cathy Burke    |   Thursday, 14 June 2018 08:12 PM

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Suicide rates for middle-aged people — particularly women — are higher than almost any other age group in the United States, and rising quickly, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

According to the CDC, suicide rates for women 45 to 64 increased nearly 60 percent between 2000 and 2016. For men of the same age, the rate jumped almost 37 percent in that time frame.

No group of women saw a higher suicide rate, and among men, only those 75 and over had higher rates than the middle-aged group.

The report comes after the suicides of two celebrities, chef and writer Anthony Bourdain, 61, and fashion designer Kate Spade, 55.

It is unclear why suicide appears to peak in middle-aged people, but one expert suggested it is not a total surprise.

“Life satisfaction hits an all-time low in middle age,” Samantha Boardman, a clinical instructor in medicine and psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, told The Wall Street Journal. “This dip in happiness is known as the U curve.”

“Depression and stress are particularly high in this age group. Juggling responsibilities and managing multiple roles takes a toll and can lead to feeling overwhelmed, a loss of control and despair.”

Overall, U.S. suicide rates increased 30 percent between 2000 and 2016, the CDC noted; in a separate CDC report, suicides rates are recorded to be rising in almost every state.

Catherine Burnette, an assistant professor at Tulane University School of Social Work in New Orleans, told the Journal if people have lived with untreated depression over time, it can implode in their 40s, 50s or 60s.

“If people have been drinking or using substances as a coping mechanism, the cost of that might peak at those ages, too,” she told the Journal.

Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University, told the Journal 90 percent of people who die by suicide have pre-existing mental disorders; the top four are depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another major risk factor for suicide is substance abuse.

“It produces chemical changes and ultimately structural changes in a way that becomes permanent,” Lieberman told the Journal.

For women, hormonal changes associated with menopause may play a role; with a drop in estrogen, changes in brain function can occur, to which not everyone is able to adapt, Lieberman said.

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