Some 49,500 people committed suicide last year in the United States. This is the highest number for self-inflicted deaths ever recorded in the country.1 The phenomenon has been attributed to increasing rates of depression, limited access to mental health services and increasing gun sales that saw suicide by gun reach an all-time high last year.2
The suicide rate dropped in 2019 and 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but then rose by four percent in 2021.3 Last year saw a 3.8 percent increase in suicides for women and a 2.3 percent increase in men.4 However, 80 percent of suicides are committed by men.5
The older segment of the population faced the steepest jump in suicides, with a seven percent increase in those aged 45-64 and an eight percent increase in those over the age of 65.6 The highest rates were seen in older white males.7 The one percent increase in suicides in ages 25 to 44 makes it the second leading cause of death in that age group.8
More Americans Died from Suicide Last Year Than in Korean War
Americans living in rural areas have been hit the hardest and accounted for between 19.2 and 21.7 per 100,000 suicides. Men who work in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction had the greatest number of suicides at 54.2 percent per 100,000 men, while construction workers accounted for 45.3 per 100,000 suicides. U.S. military veterans commit suicide at a rate 57.3 times higher than the average person in the U.S.9
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) chief medical officer, Debra Houry, MD, MPH, said:
The troubling increase in suicides requires immediate action across our society to address the staggering loss of life from tragedies that are preventable. Everyone can play a role in efforts to save lives and reverse the rise in suicide deaths.10
More Americans died from suicide last year than died in the entire Korean War (1950-1953).11 Since 2021, suicide has been the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.12 According to a recent KFF/CNN survey, 90 percent of adults in America believe there is a mental health crisis in this country. In 2023, 50 percent of young adults aged 18-24 years old reported symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to 36 percent of women and 28 percent of men.13
COVID Lockdowns Played a Role in the Declining Mental Health of Americans
The role the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdowns played on Americans declining mental health status cannot be underestimated. The pandemic led to greater incidences of isolation, loneliness, illness, grief, job loss and financial troubles. During the pandemic, one in three adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. Deaths from drug overdoses and suicide increased during this time.14
In March 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research published an article warning of the catastrophic effects of shutting down society to try to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections, including an increase in the suicide, drugs and crime rates. A few months later, in May, doctors in northern California confirmed that they saw more deaths from suicide than from COVID. In fact, Michael deBoisblanc, MD of the John Muir Medical Center in California said that from the end of April through the end of May, he observed “years’ worth of suicides.”
Kacey Hanson is a a 30-year veteran trauma center nurse at the John Muir Medical Center. She said, “What I have seen recently, I have never seen before. I have never seen so much intentional injury.”15 16 17
A March 2023 study by the National Institutes of Mental Health looking at suicide rates in youths 5-24 years old found there were 5,568 suicide deaths during the first 10 months of the pandemic—much higher than had been expected.18
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1 New York Post. US suicides hit an all-time high last year. Aug 11, 2023.
3 McCarthy D. With record suicides, America is killing its own. New York Post Aug 21, 2023.
4 Faguy A. Suicide Rate Reaches All-Time High In 2022, CDC Data Suggests. Forbes Aug. 10, 2023.
5 McCarthy D. With record suicides, America is killing its own. New York Post Aug 21, 2023.
6 New York Post. US suicides hit an all-time high last year. Aug 11, 2023.
7 McCarthy D. With record suicides, America is killing its own. New York Post Aug 21, 2023.
8 New York Post. US suicides hit an all-time high last year. Aug 11, 2023.
9 McCarthy D. With record suicides, America is killing its own. New York Post Aug 21, 2023.
10 Kekatos M. Nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide in 2022, a record-high number: CDC. ABC News Aug. 10, 2023.
11 McCarthy D. With record suicides, America is killing its own. New York Post Aug 21, 2023.
12 McPhillips D. Suicide deaths reached a record high in the US in 2022, provisional data shows. CNN Aug. 10, 2023.
13 Panchel N, Saunders H, Rudowitz R et al. The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use. KFF Mar. 20, 2023.
15 Tucker J. Lockdown Suicide Data Reveal Predictable Tragedy. American institute for Economic Research May, 22, 2020.
16 Hendler C. Dramatic ISchnitzer PG, Dykstra H. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Youth Suicide: 2020-2021. Pediatrics 2023; 151(3).ncrease in Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents During COVID-19 Lockdown Isolation. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 28, 2022.
17 Schnitzer PG, Dykstra H. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Youth Suicide: 2020-2021. Pediatrics 2023; 151(3).
18 National Institute of Mental Health. Youth Suicide Rates Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic. May 22, 2023.