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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Suicide

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org 

Suicide is a major public health concern. Suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States. Based on recent mortality data, suicide in some populations is on the rise.

Definitions

  • Suicide is defined as death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.
  • A suicide attempt is a non-fatal, self-directed, potentially injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt might not result in injury.
  • Suicidal ideation refers to thinking about, considering, or planning suicide.

Additional information about suicide can be found on the NIMH health topics page on Suicide Prevention.

Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2019:
    • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,500 people.
    • Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44.
    • There were nearly two and a half times as many suicides (47,511) in the United States as there were homicides (19,141).

Table 1 shows the ten leading causes of death in the United States, and the number of deaths attributed to each cause. Data are shown for all ages and select age groups where suicide was one of the leading ten causes of death in 2019. The data are based on death certificate information compiled by the CDC.

Table 1

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Leading Cause of Death in the United States for Select Age Groups (2019)
Data Courtesy of CDC
Rank 10-14 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 All Ages
1 Unintentional
Injury
778
Unintentional
Injury
11,755
Unintentional
Injury
24,516
Unintentional
Injury
24,070
Malignant
Neoplasms
35,587
Malignant
Neoplasms
111,765
Heart
Disease
659,041
2 Suicide
534
Suicide
5,954
Suicide
8,059
Malignant
Neoplasms
10,695
Heart
Disease
31,138
Heart
Disease
80,837
Malignant
Neoplasms
599,601
3 Malignant
Neoplasms
404
Homicide
4,774
Homicide
5,341
Heart
Disease
10,499
Unintentional
Injury
23,359
Unintentional
Injury
24,892
Unintentional
Injury
173,040
4 Homicide
191
Malignant
Neoplasms
1,388
Malignant
Neoplasms
3,577
Suicide
7,525
Liver
Disease
8,098
CLRD
18,743
CLRD
156,979
5 Congenital
Anomalies
189
Heart
Disease
872
Heart
Disease
3,495
Homicide
3,446
Suicide
8,012
Diabetes
Mellitus
15,508
Cerebro-
vascular
150,005
6 Heart
Disease
87
Congenital
Anomalies
390
Liver
Disease
1,112
Liver
Disease
3,417
Diabetes
Mellitus
6,348
Liver
Disease
14,385
Alzheimer’s
Disease
121,499
7 CLRD
81
Diabetes
Mellitus
248
Diabetes
Mellitus
887
Diabetes
Mellitus
2,228
Cerebro-
vascular
5,153
Cerebro-
vascular
12,931
Diabetes
Mellitus
87,647
8 Influenza
& Pneumonia
71
Influenza
& Pneumonia
175
Cerebro-
vascular
585
Cerebro-
vascular
1,741
CLRD
3,592
Suicide
8,238
Nephritis
51,565
9 Cerebro-
vascular
48
CLRD
168
Complicated
Pregnancy
532
Influenza
& Pneumonia
951
Nephritis
2,269
Nephritis
5,857
Influenza
& Pneumonia
49,783
10 Benign Neoplasms
35
Cerebro-
vascular
158
HIV
486
Septicemia
812
Septicemia
2,176
Septicemia
5,672
Suicide
47,511

CLRD: Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease

Note: Suicide is not among the ten leading causes of death among children in the 0-9 year age group nor in adults in the age group 65 years and older.

Suicide Rates

Data in Figure 1 and Figure 2 are courtesy of the CDC ’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS Data Brief No. 398, February 2021)).

Trends over Time

  • Suicide rates are based on the number of people who have died by suicide per 100,000 population. When comparing rates from one year to another year, ‘age-adjusted’ rates allow for differences in population age distributions and changes in population size over time to be taken into account.
  • Figure 1 shows age-adjusted suicide rates in the United States for each year from 1999 through 2019 for the total population, and for males and females separately.
    • The total age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 35.2% from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 14.2 per 100,000 in 2018, before declining to 13.9 per 100,000 in 2019.
    • In 2019, the suicide rate among males was 3.7 times higher (22.4 per 100,000) than among females (6.0 per 100,000).

Figure 1

Age-Adjusted Suicide Rates in the United States (1999-2019)
Year Total Population Female Male
1999 10.5 4.0 17.8
2000 10.4 4.0 17.7
2001 10.7 4.1 18.2
2002 11.0 4.2 18.5
2003 10.8 4.2 18.1
2004 11.0 4.5 18.1
2005 10.9 4.4 18.1
2006 11.0 4.5 18.1
2007 11.3 4.7 18.5
2008 11.6 4.8 19.0
2009 11.8 4.9 19.2
2010 12.1 5.0 19.8
2011 12.3 5.2 20.0
2012 12.5 5.4 20.3
2013 12.6 5.5 20.2
2014 13.0 5.8 20.7
2015 13.3 6.0 21.0
2016 13.4 6.0 21.3
2017 14.0 6.1 22.4
2018 14.2 6.2 22.8
2019 13.9 6.0 22.4

Demographics

  • Crude suicide rate calculations take population size within subgroups in any given year or timeframe into account. They can be a useful tool for understanding the relative proportion of people affected within different demographic groups.
  • Figure 2 shows the crude rates of suicide within sex and age categories in 2019.
    • Among females, the suicide rate was highest for those aged 45-64 (9.6 per 100,000).
    • Among males, the suicide rate was highest for those aged 75 and older (39.9 per 100,000).

Figure 2

Suicide Rates by Age (per 100,000; 2019)
Age Group Female Male
10–14 2.0 3.1
15–24 5.5 22.0
25–44 7.4 28.0
45–64 9.6 29.9
65–74 5.9 26.4
75+ 4.3 39.9
  • Figure 3 shows the crude rates of suicide for race/ethnicity groups in 2019 based on data from the CDC’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Data Visualization Tool.
  • The crude rates of suicide were highest for American Indian, Non-Hispanic males (33.4 per 100,000) and, followed by White, Non-Hispanic males (29.8 per 100,000). Among females the crude rates of suicide were highest for American Indian, Non-Hispanic females (11.1 per 100,000) and White, Non-Hispanic females (8.0 per 100,000).

Figure 3

Suicide Rates by Race (per 100,000; 2019)
Race Female Male
Hispanic* 3.0 11.3
White 8.0 29.8
Black 2.9 12.4
Asian/PI 4.0 11.2
AI 11.1 33.4

Suicide Rates by State

  • Just as state population numbers and age distributions vary, suicide rates can vary widely from state to state. Based on data from the CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Data Visualization Tool, Figure 4 shows a map of the United States with each state’s age-adjusted suicide rate in 2019 indicated by color.

Figure 4

Source: CDC - WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) Fatal Injury Mapping     
Website: https://wisqars.cdc.gov:8443/cdcMapFramework/mapModuleInterface.jsp       Applied Filters: Suicide All Injury Deaths
States: All States
Race: All Races
Ethnicity: All Ethnicities
Sex: All Sexes
Year Range: 2019-2019
Age Range: All Ages

Suicide by Method

Data in Table 2 and Figure 5 are courtesy of the CDC WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports.

Number of Suicide Deaths by Method

  • Table 2 includes information on the total number of suicides for the most common methods.
  • In 2019, firearms were the most common method used in suicide deaths in the United States, accounting for a little over half of all suicide deaths (23,941).

Table 2

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Suicide by Method (2019)
Data Courtesy of CDC
Suicide Method Number of Deaths
Total 47,511
Firearm 23,941
Suffocation 13,563
Poisoning 6,125
Other 3,882

Percent of Suicide Deaths by Method

  • Figure 5 shows the percentages of suicide deaths by method among females and males in 2019. Among females, the most common methods of suicide were firearm (31.4%), poisoning (30.0%), and suffocation (29.0%). Among males, the most common methods of suicide were firearm (55.6%) followed by suffocation (28.4%).

Figure 5

Percentage of Suicide Deaths by Method in the United States (2019)
Sex Other Poisoning Suffocation Firearm
Female 9.6 30.0 29.0 31.4
Male 7.8 8.2 28.4 55.6

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among U.S. Adults

Data in Figure 6, Figure 7, and Figure 8 are based on data from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)1 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

  • Figure 6 shows that 4.8% of adults age 18 and older in the United States had serious thoughts about suicide in 2019.
    • Among adults across all age groups, the prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was highest among young adults aged 18-25 (11.8%).
    • The prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was highest among adults age 18 and older who report having multiple (two or more) race (6.9%).

Figure 6

Past Year Prevalence of Suicidal Thoughts Among U.S. Adults (2019)
Demographic Percent
Overall 4.8
Sex Female 5.1
Male 4.5
Age 18-25 11.8
26-49 5.3
50+ 2.4
Race/Ethnicity *Hispanic or Latino 5.0
White 5.0
Black or African American 4.0
Asian 3.6
NH/OPI 2.3
AI/AN 5.1
2 or More 6.9

* Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race; all other racial/ethnic groups are non-Hispanic.
NH/OPI = Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander / AI/AN = American Indian / Alaskan Native

  • Figure 7 shows that in 2019, 0.6% of adults age 18 and older in the United States report they attempted suicide in in the past year.
    • Among adults across all age groups, the prevalence of suicide attempt in the past year was highest among young adults 18-25 years old (1.8%).
    • Among adults age 18 and older, the prevalence of suicide attempts in the past year was highest among those who report having multiple (two or more) races (1.5%).

Figure 7

Past Year Prevalence of Suicide Attempts Among U.S. Adults (2019)
Demographic Percent
Overall 0.6
Sex Female 0.7
Male 0.4
Age 18-25 1.8
26-49 0.6
50+ 0.2
Race/Ethnicity *Hispanic or Latino 0.6
White 0.5
Black or African American 0.8
Asian 0.4
NH/OPI 0.4
AI/AN 0.5
2 or More 1.5

* Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race; all other racial/ethnic groups are non-Hispanic.
NH/OPI = Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander / AI/AN = American Indian / Alaskan Native

  • Figure 8 shows that in 2019, 12.0 million adults aged 18 or older reported having serious thoughts of suicide, and 1.4 million adults attempted suicide during the past year.

Figure 8

Data Sources

Statistical Methods and Measurement Caveats

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

Population:

  • NSDUH participants are representative of the civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 12 years old or older residing within the United States.  Only adults 18 years and older are asked about suicidal thoughts and behavior.
  • The survey covers residents of households (persons living in houses/townhouses, apartments, condominiums; civilians living in housing on military bases, etc.) and persons in non-institutional group quarters (e.g., shelters, rooming/boarding houses, college dormitories, migratory workers' camps, and halfway houses).
  • The survey does not cover persons who, for the entire year, had no fixed address (e.g., homeless and/or transient persons not in shelters); were on active military duty; or who resided in institutional group quarters (e.g., correctional facilities, nursing homes, mental institutions, long-term hospitals).
  • Sex (i.e. male and female) was recorded by the interviewer.

Interview Response and Completion:

  • In 2019, 35.1% of the NSDUH adult sample did not complete the interview.
  • Reasons for non-response to interviewing include: refusal to participate (23.9%); respondent unavailable or never at home (6.2%); and various other reasons, such as physical/mental incompetence or language barriers (5.0%).
  • People with suicidal behavior may disproportionately fall into these non-response categories. While NSDUH weighting includes non-response adjustments to reduce bias, these adjustments may not fully account for differential non-response by suicide behavior status.

Please see the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Methodological Summary and Definitions report for further information on how these data were collected and calculated.

If You are in Crisis

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-8255

Additional Resources