Friday, May 3, 2013

Suicide Rates and Dying Before Your Time

News about the increase in suicide rates among Baby Boomers caught my eye this morning. According to the New York Times story, "More people now die of suicide than in car accidents" when you compare the years 1999 and 2010.

That could, of course, happen because there are fewer people dying in car accidents (and there are: 15.3 per 100,000 vs. 10.7), but the absolute number of suicides is also up. Use of all methods is up, too, with guns still leading the way, followed by poisoning (overdoses) and then strangulation (hanging).

The rate among Americans aged 35 to 64 is up 30 percent, with particular spikes of 50 percent among men in their 50s and 60 percent among with aged 60 to 64. Women, it should be noted, commit suicide much less often than men, with rates of 8.1 per 100,000 vs. 27.3 per 100,000 for middle-agers (2010 data) .

All of that said, these other graphs from the Centers for Disease Control are a partial antidote, at least at a public health level. Not much comfort if it's someone you know who has died from suicide, but still enlightening.

First is this chart, which shows age-adjusted death rates per 100,000. The blue bar is the year 2000 and the green is 2011, broken out by sex and the three broadest race/ethnicity categories (black, white, and Hispanic):

Deaths are significantly down in all groups, with the biggest drop among black men (because of the decrease in the homicide rate, I assume).

What is an age-adjusted death rate, you might ask? It's created by analyzing a population and its age breakdown, then calculating how many people would die, from an actuarial standpoint, in an average year.

This map shows which states have more people dying than would be expected vs. those that have fewer dying:

Gray states have the number of people dying that would be expected, based on the averages, while green ones have fewer and blue have more. The darker the color, the farther from the average.

I can't help noticing that many all of the green states voted for Obama in 2012. Obama-voting states in the blue category include Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Western states tend to be average or healthier, except Nevada and Montana. The South is full of smokers and drinkers, I guess. Most of those blue states also have higher rates of suicide.

And here's the most interesting graph of all. If I asked you to pick which racial/ethnic group has the longest life expectancy, I assume (like me) you would have thought it was white people. But I was wrong:

The clear winners are Hispanics (Latinos), statistically outliving the next nearest group by a couple years for both sexes.

The CDC's new report on the increase in the suicide rate is here.


Carl said...

Obama did not win Arizona, Nebraska, or either Dakota (all green above).

Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks, Carl. I was over-seeing a pattern.