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This article provides some hard facts about suicide in the United States.

Completed suicides, U.S., 1999*

  • suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • It was the 8th leading cause of death for males, and 19th leading cause of death for females.
  • The total number of suicide deaths was 29,199.
  • The 1999 age-adjusted rate** was 10.7/100,000, or 0.01%.
    • 1.3% of total deaths were from suicide. By contrast, 30.3% were from diseases of the heart, 23% were from malignant neoplasms (cancer), and 7% from cerebrovascular disease (stroke), the three leading causes.
    • Suicide outnumbered homicides (16,899) by 5 to 3.
    • There were twice as many deaths due to suicide than deaths due to HIV/AIDS (14,802).
    • There were almost exactly the same number of suicides by firearm (16,889) as homicides (16,599).
  • Suicide by firearms was the most common method for both men and women, accounting for 57% of all suicides.
  • More men than women die by suicide.
    • The gender ratio is 4:1.
    • 72% of all suicides are committed by white men.
    • 79% of all firearm suicides are committed by white men.
  • Among the highest rates (when categorized by gender and race) are suicide deaths for white men over 85, who had a rate of 59/100,000.
  • Suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries and homicide. The rate was 10.3/100,000, or .01%.
    • The suicide rate among children ages 10-14 was 1.2/100,000, or 192 deaths among 19,608,000 children in this age group.
      • The 1999 gender ratio for this age group was 4:1 (males: females).
    • The suicide rate among adolescents aged 15-19 was 8.2/100,000, or 1,615 deaths among 19,594,000 adolescents in this age group.
      • The 1999 gender ratio for this age group was 5:1 (males: females).
      • Among young people 20 to 24 years of age the suicide rate was 12.7/100,000, or 2,285 deaths among 17,594,000 people in this age group.
      • The 1999 gender ratio for this age group was 6:1 (males: females).

Attempted Suicides

  • No annual national data on attempted suicide are available; reliable scientific research, however, has found that:
    • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides to one completion; the ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and the elderly
    • More women than men report a history of attempted suicide, with a gender ratio of 3:1
    • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in adults are depression, alcohol abuse, cocaine use, and separation or divorce
    • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in youth are depression, alcohol or other drug use disorder, and aggressive or disruptive behaviors

Resources

* 1999 U.S. mortality data was based to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10), whereas ICD-9 has been used for the last several years of mortality data. For this reason, comparisons between 1999 and earlier mortality data should be made carefully. For a full explanation of the implications of this change, see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/cmf.htm

** Age-adjusted rates refer to weighting rates by a population standard to allow for comparisons across time and among risk groups. The 1999 mortality data is calculated using figures from the 2000 census, whereas previous years have been calculated using 1940 census data. For this reason, comparisons between 1999 and earlier mortality data should be made carefully. For a full explanation of the implications of this change, see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/cmf.htm

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