Middle-aged white women at increasing risk, study finds
TUESDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The suicide rate in the United States is increasing for the first time in a decade, particularly among middle-aged white women, a new study finds.
"This is a group we haven't had as much focus on in terms of suicide, because the death rates were higher in elderly white males, and there has been a lot of attention to teenagers and young adults," said lead researcher Susan P. Baker, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "This 40-to-64 age group has been neglected."
The suicide rate declined over the same period for blacks and remained stable for Asians and Native Americans, the study found.
Baker said it's not clear what might be causing the rising suicide rates among middle-aged whites. "We need to study the individual people who have committed suicide and see what were their living circumstances. Were they depressed, was this impulsive? A lot more specific information is needed," she said.
One possible explanation is that doctors may not be paying enough attention to the mental health of their middle-aged white patients to spot the risk of suicide, Baker said.
The report was published online Oct. 21 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
For the study, Baker and her colleagues used the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. This site provides information on cause of deaths, broken down by age, race, sex and state. The statistics are culled from annual reports by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
The researchers found that from 1999 to 2005, the overall suicide rate in the United States rose 0.7 percent. However, among middle-aged white women, the annual increase was 3.9 percent; among middle-aged white men it was 2.7 percent.
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