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Suicidal Thoughts (cont.)

Protective Factors Against Suicide

Despite the wide range of suicide risk factors discussed, there are also factors that can be protective against suicide. People who have good social supports, including family members, friends, or other connections with other people, have a lower risk of suicide. Cultural groups that value family and community relationships and are close-knit tend to have fewer suicides. For men and women, having children at home, and for women, a current pregnancy, also are protective factors. Religious and spiritual practices and beliefs -- including a belief that suicide is wrong -- can also reduce suicide risks. Lastly, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, including positive coping strategies, adequate sleep, good diet and exercise, can both maintain and improve physical and mental health, including suicide risk.

Prevalence of Suicides and Suicide Attempts

Every 40 seconds, somewhere in the world, someone ends their life. In 2012, there were 804,000 deaths by suicide globally, accounting for about 50% of all violent deaths in the world (1.4% of all deaths). In 2010, for the U.S. alone, there were 38,364 reported suicide deaths (about 105 suicides daily; one suicide every 14 minutes). There are more deaths due to suicide than murder (homicide) every year. More men than women die of suicide every year, although the differences vary by country. In the U.S., there are four times as many men than women who complete suicide, about 79% of all suicide deaths. In poorer countries, the difference in suicide rates between genders is lower, with a ratio of about one and a half men to every woman.

Even though suicide may not be discussed as much as other issues, including murder, cancer, HIV, war, and violence, it is one of the most common causes of death. In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death; more people kill themselves than die by murder (homicide) or other violence. Worldwide, suicides account for more deaths than wars or murders.

Suicide is more common at certain ages: people in their teens and 20s, as well as older adults, are most likely to attempt or complete suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, and the second leading cause for people ages 25-34. Older men (>75 years old) have the highest suicide rates (36 deaths per 100,000 men). In women, the suicide rate is highest in those aged 45-54 (nine deaths per 100,000 women). Recently, some of these age patterns have changed, with suicide becoming more common in other age groups. From 1999-2010, suicide rates for middle-aged people (35-64) increased by 28% (from 13.7 per 100,000 in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010).

Suicide rates vary among different racial and ethnic groups as well; however, differences in cultural beliefs, socioeconomic status, and family structure are far more complex than these numbers would suggest. Worldwide, suicide rates vary greatly among countries and continents. In the U.S., immigrants tend to have suicide rates similar to their country of origin. In the U.S., Caucasians and Native Americans have the highest age-adjusted rates of completed suicides (15.4 or 16.4 per 100,000), while African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Pacific Islanders have about half this rate (5.5, 5.7, or 5.8 per 100,000).

There are many more suicide attempts than deaths by suicide. Because many attempts are not reported, estimates are likely lower than the actual number. Most reports suggest that for every suicide, there are probably at least 20-25 suicide attempts. In people ages 15-24, there may be as many as 100-200 people who survive for every completed suicide. Another statistic that is difficult to calculate is the number of people who are surviving family members, partners, or close friends of every victim of suicide -- also known as survivors of suicide. A low estimate is that at least six people are seriously affected by every suicide, which means there are about 230,000 new survivors of suicide in the U.S. every year.

For every person who attempts or completes suicide, even more have serious thoughts or plans of committing suicide. When asked about suicidal thoughts and actions in the year 2008-2009, more than 8 million U.S. adults (3.7% of the population) reported serious suicidal thoughts, 2.5 million (1% of the population) reported making a suicide plan, and 1.1 million (<0.5% of the population) reported a suicide attempt. Among younger people, over 17% of high school students (teenagers in grades 9-12; 22.4% of females and 11.6% of males) have seriously considered suicide, 13.6% made a plan (16.9% of females and 10.3% of males), and 8% (10.6% of females and 5.4% of males) reported a suicide attempt at least once in the past year. Further, 2.7% of the teenagers surveyed had a serious suicide attempt that required treatment by a doctor or nurse.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2014
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