CDC reports Rise of Suicide Among Middle-Aged, Unintentional Injury Among Young Adults
> 12/14/2007 12:38:02 PM

In a study on injury mortality rates, which include deaths from unintentional injury, homicide, injuries of undetermined intent, and suicide, the CDC reports that total injury mortality rates increased by 5.5% between 1999 and 2004. Injury mortality rates have not increased substantially in the past 25 years, and the these recent jumps have largely affected two age groups: 20-29 year olds and 45-54 year olds. Specifically, both groups saw increases in unintentional injuries, and middle-aged adults were also affected by a rise in suicide rates.

The study, appearing in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, utilized data from death certificates, which the researchers accessed through the National Vital Statistics System. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that although homicide rates remained stable from 1999 to 2004, the number of deaths attributed to unintentional injuries, suicide, and injuries of undetermined intent increased during this time period. The two most affected age groups were 20-29 year olds, whose  total injury mortality rate rose by 7.7%, and 45-54 year olds, who saw an increase of 24.5% in their total injury mortality rate. The rate of unintentional injury mortality, which includes falls, car accidents, and poisonings, rose by 12.1% among the younger adults, and this rate rose by 28.0% for the 45-54 year olds. The suicide rate for the middle-aged adults also rose considerably, increasing by 19.5%. This jump was not seen in the 20-29 year olds, whose suicide rate rose only by 1.1%.

The rise in unintentional injuries among both groups was fueled by poisonings, mostly drug overdoses. Deaths from unintentional poisoning increased by 92.5% for young adults, rising from a rate of 4.3 in 1999 to 8.3 in 2004. The same rate for middle-aged adults rose by 87.0%, from 7.8 to 14.5. The researchers theorize that drug abuse may also have contributed to the increased suicide rate for middle-aged adults, noting that drug users are at heightened risk for suicide. These results indicate that drug abuse may have played a role in the rising rates, but the study was not designed to discover why some injury mortality rates have increased and further research is needed.

Programs to prevent suicide often focus on teens, but research has shown that other age groups are also at risk. Generally, suicide rates rise in adolescence and then again in old age, and adults over 65 have the highest overall risk for suicide. This study, however, illustrates that anyone at any age can commit suicide, and it is important that we recognize changing mortality rates and address the underlying factors behind these shifts. Future studies should examine the connection between drug abuse and increased rates of unintentional injury and suicide as well as investigating other possible reasons for these developments. As we gain a better understanding of why these increases have occurred, we can better prevent the trend from continuing.

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