The U.S. suicide rate has increased sharply since the turn of the century, led by an even greater rise among middle-aged white people, particularly women, according to federal data released Friday.
Last decade’s severe recession, more drug addiction, “gray divorce,” increased social isolation, and even the rise of the Internet and social media may have contributed to the growth in suicide, according to a variety of people who study the issue.
But economic distress — and dashed hopes generally — may underpin some of the increase, particularly for middle-aged white people. The data showed a 1 percent annual increase in suicide between 1999 and 2006 but a 2 percent yearly hike after that, as the economy deteriorated, unemployment skyrocketed and millions lost their homes.
“People [were] growing up with a certain expectation . . . and the Great Recession and other things have really changed that,” said Julie A. Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University who studies the demography of suicide. “Things aren’t panning out the way people expect. I feel for sure that has had an effect.”
Statistics on suicide and race released separately by the agency Friday showed that American Indians and Alaska Natives suffered the greatest rate of increase in suicides, though that population is much smaller than other ethnic groups in the United States. Whites were second. Among white women ages 45 to 64, for example, the suicide rate jumped 80 percent, from 7 per 100,000 in 1999 to 12.6 per 100,000 in 2014.