In a concerning revelation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data has unveiled that the suicide rates for women in the United States increased by 4 percent in 2022. This surge contributes to an overall record-breaking total of nearly 50,000 suicides, the highest number ever recorded in the nation’s history. While the total number of suicides among men outpaced women 4 to 1 in 2022, the rate of increase in women’s suicides was twice that of men from 2021 to 2022.
Demographic Insights: The data revealsthat all age groups for women aged 25 and older experienced an increase in suicides, with a notable surge among those aged 25 to 34. This age group witnessed a significant 7 percent increase in the suicide rate for women. On the contrary, the 10 to 14 age group saw a 22 percent decline for women, and the 15 to 24 age group experienced a 3 percent decrease.
Pandemic-Related Contributors: Experts and mental health professionals attribute this disturbing trend to the multifaceted challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The prolonged pandemic period has intensified caretaking responsibilities, extended financial instability, and increased vulnerability to domestic violence. Societal factors, including social isolation and erosion of social support, have also played a role in deteriorating mental wellness, particularly for women of childbearing age.
Impact of COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies: Arielle Scoglio, an assistant professor of health studies at Bentley University, emphasizes the adverse effects of pandemic mitigation strategies that led to social isolation and the erosion of social support. Reduced access to helpers who might identify warning signs for suicide in various settings, such as workplaces and schools, has been a significant challenge.
Financial Strains and Adversities: Hyeouk Chris Hahm, an associate dean for research at Boston University School of Social Work, points to the complex combination of individual, interpersonal, and societal factors contributing to suicide. Financial strains, substance use disorders, and the housing crisis, characterized by high mortgage rates and a lack of affordable options, have compounded stressors, especially among young adults.
Positive Signals and Solutions: While the data reveals alarming figures, there are positive signals, particularly the 8 percent decrease in suicide rates for Native American and Alaska Native populations. Jessica Provines, assistant vice president of wellness and chief psychologist at Wichita State, highlights the success of targeted suicide prevention efforts, indicating that when prevention efforts are sustained, positive outcomes can be achieved.
Call for National Strategies: Dr. Brooks Keeshin, the director of the Safe & Healthy Families Clinic at the University of Utah, underscores the need for stronger national-level efforts around suicide death prevention. Additionally, expanding prevention efforts and raising awareness to combat stigma remain crucial aspects of addressing this public health crisis.
Conclusion: As the U.S. grapples with the devastating impact of rising suicide rates, it becomes imperative to not only analyze the contributing factors but also to implement comprehensive strategies for prevention. Fostering social support, increasing awareness, and sustaining targeted interventions are essential steps toward addressing the mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.