The suicide rate rose in 2021 in the United States, especially among young men, according to data released by health authorities on Friday, an increase that ends a downward trend observed for two years.
The number of suicides rose from around 46,000 in 2020 to 47,650 in 2021, according to preliminary figures from the US National Center for Health Statistics.
The suicide rate per 100,000 people thus fell from 13.5 in 2020 to 14 last year (+4%).
The most significant increase was recorded among young men between 15 and 24 (+8%).
In 2000, after a decade of decline, the United States recorded a low of 10 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
The complex role of the pandemic
One of the contributing factors was
"the advent of treatments to help reduce the risk of suicide,"
Jill Harkavy-Friedman, a doctor at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told AFP.
But the suicide rate then rose by 35% until 2018. Then, in 2019 and 2020, it had declined by around 5%.
According to Jill Harkavy-Friedman, these recent fluctuations are difficult to interpret:
"We will have to look at the long-term trend to understand what the rates are currently reflecting
," she said.
The role of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, is complex.
During such an event, relatives may tend to support each other more (which can help prevent suicides), without this persisting over time, underlines the Foundation.
Suicides are the second leading cause of death among 10-34 year olds.
Data from 2021 also shows that the suicide rate for men is four times higher than for women – a consistent trend over the years.
Among the reasons put forward: a greater use of lethal means, or more difficulty in asking for help.
This preliminary data does not yet provide details regarding the ethnicity or income of the deceased.
Recently, the United States set up a hotline with a simple three-digit number (988) for people in distress.
“We have identified the sectors making it possible to reach a maximum of people at risk”,
also underlined Jill Harkavy-Friedman.
“If we can get hospitals, emergency services, gun owners and detention centers to focus on preventing suicides, then we should be able to bring them down.”