The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics showing that death from suicide, alcohol, and drugs hit their highest level since the federal government started recording data in 1999.
The rate from deaths from alcohol, suicide, and drugs rose 6 percent in 2017. The increase had been higher for the previous two years, but the rate of annual increase since 1999 was only 4 percent. The Trust for America’s Health and Well Being placed the death rate from suicide, drugs, and alcohol at 46.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, up from 43.9 per 100,000 in 2016.
The rise in numbers encompasses the majority of the nation and is not limited to one region. Death rates from suicide, alcohol, and drugs fell in only five states- Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming. However, some regions were hit harder than others. In West Virginia, 99 residents per 100,000 died from alcohol, drugs, or suicide and in New Mexico it is 77 residents per 100,000.
Deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drugs hit men harder than women, with death rates for men standing at 68.2 per 100,000 while it was 25.7 per 100,000 for women. The hardest hit age range is age 35-54 with 72.4 deaths per 100,000.
Deaths from suicide and opioids continue to skyrocket. Suicide by firearm has increased by 22 percent since 2008 and suicide by suffocation rose 42 since 2008. Deaths from synthetic opioids increased 45 percent in 2017 and have seen a tenfold increase in the past five years.
Many experts point to an epidemic of loneliness as one factor in the rise. Loribeth Bowman Stein told USA Today that “We really don’t see each other anymore. We don’t share our hopes and joys in the same way, and we aren’t as available to one another, physically and emotionally, as we need to be.” She sees this lack of social connectedness as a major factor in the increased loneliness that leads to suicide. She also believes technology plays a role in our social isolation, saying, “The world got smaller, but lonelier.”
John Auerbach, who served as state health secretary in Massachusetts and now heads Trust for America’s Health, said the country should work hard to “understand and address” the underlying causes that fuel the rise in “these devastating deaths of despair.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, people are available to speak to you immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is open 24 hours a day, at 1-800-273-8255.
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”
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