About Suicide


Scope of the problem

Suicide occurs when a person ends his or her life. It is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans. But suicide deaths are only part of the problem.  Suicide attempts impact a larger population—more individuals survive suicide attempts than die. And they are often seriously injured and in need of medical care.

Suicide Deaths in the United States

  • There are far more suicides each year than homicides. In fact, in 2009, the number of suicides was about twice that of homicides.
  • More than 36,000 people kill themselves each year.

Suicide Attempts in the United States

  • There are an estimated 25 attempted suicides for every one suicide death.
  • More than 374,500 people with self-inflicted injuries are treated in emergency rooms each year.
  • More than 163,000 people are hospitalized each year due to self-inflicted injury.

Age Group Differences

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 25- to 34-year olds and the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year olds.
  • Suicide among 45- to 54-year-olds is a growing problem; the rate of suicide is higher in this age group than in any other.
  • Although older adults engage in suicide prevention attempts less than those in other age groups, they have a higher rate of death by suicide.  Over the age of 65, there is one estimated suicide for every 4 attempted suicides compared to 1 suicide for every 100-200 attempts among youth and young adults ages 15-24.

Gender Disparities

  • Men die by suicide four times as often as women and represent 78.8% of all U.S. suicides.
  • Women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.
  • Suicide rates for males are highest among those aged 75 and older.
  • Suicide rates for females are highest among those aged 45-54.
  • Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males.
  • Poisoning is the most common method of suicide for females.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities

  • The highest suicide rates are among American Indian/Alaskan Natives and Non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest suicide rates among males while Non-Hispanic Blacks have the lowest suicide rate among females.

Risk and Protective Factors

Suicide is a complex human behavior, with no single determining cause. The factors that affect the likelihood of a person attempting or dying by are known as risk or protective factors, depending on whether they raise or lower the likelihood of suicidal behavior.

Major risk factors for suicide include:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Access to lethal means

Major protective factors include:

  • Effective mental health care
  • Connectedness between individuals, familymembers, community organizations, and social institutions
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Contact with Caregivers


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