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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 

Definitions

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

  • 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), in 2015:
    • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people.
    • Suicide was the third leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 14, and the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 34.
    • There were more than twice as many suicides (44,193) in the United States as there were homicides (17,793).

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 2015. The data are based on death certificate information compiled by the CDC.

Table 1

Leading Cause of Death in the United States (2015)
Data Courtesy of CDC
Select Age Groups
Rank 10-14 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 All Ages
1 Unintentional
Injury
763
Unintentional
Injury
12,514
Unintentional
Injury
19,795
Unintentional
Injury
17,818
Malignant
Neoplasms
43,054
Malignant
Neoplasms
116,122
Heart
Disease
633,842
2 Malignant
Neoplasms
428
Suicide
5,491
Suicide
6,947
Malignant
Neoplasms
10,909
Heart
Disease
34,248
Heart
Disease
76,872
Malignant
Neoplasms
595,930
3 Suicide
409
Homicide
4,733
Homicide
4,863
Heart
Disease
10,387
Unintentional
Injury
21,499
Unintentional
Injury
19,488
CLRD
155,041
4 Homicide
158
Malignant
Neoplasms
1,469
Malignant
Neoplasms
3,704
Suicide
6,936
Liver
Disease
8,874
CLRD
17,457
Unintentional
Injury
146,571
5 Congenital
Abnormalities
156
Heart
Disease
997
Heart
Disease
3,522
Homicide
2,895
Suicide
8,751
Diabetes
Mellitus
14,166
Cerebro-
vascular
140,323
6 Heart
Disease
125
Congenital
Anomalies
386
Liver
Disease
844
Liver
Disease
2,861
Diabetes
Mellitus
6,212
Liver
Disease
13,278
Alzheimer’s
Disease
110,561
7 CLRD
93
CLRD
202
Diabetes
Mellitus
798
Diabetes
Mellitus
1,986
Cerebro-
vascular
5,307
Cerebro-
vascular
12,116
Diabetes
Mellitus
79,535
8 Cerebro-
vascular
42
Diabetes
Mellitus
196
Cerebro-
vascular
567
Cerebro-
vascular
1,788
CLRD
4,345
Suicide
7,739
Influenza
& Pneumonia
57,062
9 Influenza
& Pneumonia
39
Influenza
& Pneumonia
184
HIV
527
HIV
1,055
Septicemia
2,542
Septicemia
5,774
Nephritis
49,959
10 Two
Tied
33
Cerebro-
vascular
166
Congenital
Abnormalities
443
Septicemia
829
Nephritis
2,124
Nephritis
5,452
Suicide
44,193

CLRD = Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease

Suicide Rates

Trends over Time

  • Suicide rate is based on the number of people who have died by suicide per 100,000 population. Because changes in population size are taken into account, rates allow for comparisons from one year to the next.
  • Figure 1 shows the age-adjusted suicide rates in the United States for each year from 1999 through 2014 for the total population, and for males and females presented separately. Data courtesy of the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC .
    • Over the past 15 years, the total suicide rate has increased 24% from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000.
    • The suicide rate among males has remained approximately four times higher (20.7 per 100,000 in 2014) than among females (5.8 per 100,000 in 2014).

Figure 1

Age-Adjusted Suicide Rates in the United States (1999-2014)
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 10.9 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 4.6 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 12.6 5.4 20.4
2013 12.6 5.5 20.3
2014 13.0 5.8 20.7

Demographics

  • Because suicide rates take population size into account, they can be a useful tool for understanding the relative proportion of people affected within different demographic groups.
  • Figure 2 shows the rates of suicide within sex and age categories in 2014.
    • Among females, the suicide rate was highest for those aged 45-64 (9.8 per 100,000).
    • Among males, the suicide rate was highest for those aged 75 and over (38.8 per 100,000). 

Figure 2

Suicide Rates by Age (per 100,000)
Age Female Male
10–14 1.5 2.6
15–24 4.6 18.2
25–44 7.2 24.3
45–64 9.8 29.7
65–74 5.9 26.6
75 and over 4.0 38.8
  • Figure 3 shows the rates of suicide within race/ethnicity groups in 2014. The rates of suicide were highest for males (27.4 per 100,000) and females (8.7 per 100,000) in the American Indian/Alaska Native group, followed by males (25.8 per 100,000) and females (7.5 per 100,000) in the White/non-Hispanic group.

Figure 3

Suicide Rates by Race (per 100,000)
Race Female Male
White 7.5 25.8
Black 2.1 9.7
Asian/PI*** 3.5 8.9
AI/AN** 8.7 27.4
Hispanic or Latino* 2.5 10.3

*All other groups are non-Hispanic or Latino / **AI/AN = American Indian / Alaskan Native / ***PI = Pacific Islander

Suicide Rates by State

  • Suicide rates are not the same from state to state. Based on data from the CDC, Figure 4 shows a map of the United States with each state’s average suicide rate from 2004 to 2010 indicated by color. To learn more about national and state suicide rates visit the CDC WISQARS Fatal Injury Mapping page.

Figure 4

Suicide by Method

Number of Suicide Deaths by Method

  • Table 2 includes information on the total number of suicides for the most common methods.
  • In 2015, firearms were the most common method used in suicide deaths in the United States, accounting for almost half of all suicide deaths (22,118).

Table 2

Suicide by Method (2015)
Data Courtesy of CDC
Suicide Method Number of Deaths
Total 44,193
Firearm 22,018
Suffocation 11,855
Poisoning 6,816
Other 3,504

Percent of Suicide Deaths by Method

  • Figure 5 shows the percentages of suicide deaths by method among males and females. In 2015, firearm was the most common method of suicide among both males (55.6%) and females (33.4%).

Figure 5

Percentage of Suicide Deaths by Method in the United States (2015)
Sex Other Suffocation Poisoning Firearm
Female 9.4 26.7 30.5 33.4
Male 7.5 26.9 10 55.6

Cost of Suicide Deaths

  • In addition to the emotional loss associated with suicide, there is also an economic loss as the burden of suicide falls most heavily on adults of working age.
    • Figure 6 shows the medical and work-loss costs of fatal injury by intent in the United States in 2013, reported by the CDC .
    • Suicide accounted for $50.8 billion (24%) of the fatal injury cost.

Figure 6

Medication Use Among Children Currently Diagnosed with ADHD (2011)
Method Percent
Suicide 24
Homicide 12
Unintentional Injury 64
Total 100

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among U.S. Adults

Data in Figure 7, Figure 8, and Figure 9 are based on data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)1 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA).

  • Figure 7 shows that 4.0% of adults age 18 and older in the United States had thoughts about suicide in 2016.
    • The percentage of adults having serious thoughts of suicide was highest among adults aged 18-25 (8.8%).
    • The prevalence of suicidal thoughts was highest among adults reporting two or more races (7.5%).

Figure 7

Past Year Prevalence of Suicidal Thoughts Among U.S. Adults (2016)
Demographic Percent
Overall 4.0
Sex Female 4.1
Male 4.0
Age 18-25 8.8
26-49 4.2
50+ 2.4
Race/Ethnicity Hispanic or Latino* 3.5
White 4.3
Black 3.5
Asian 2.3
NH/OPI** 2.5
AI/AN*** 3.9
2 or More 7.5

*All other groups are non-Hispanic or Latino / **NH/OPI = Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander / ***AI/AN = American Indian / Alaskan Native

  • Figure 8 shows that 0.5% of adults age 18 and older in the United States attempted suicide in 2016.
    • The percentage of adults that attempted suicide was highest among adults aged 18-25 (1.8%).
    • The prevalence of suicide attempts was highest among adults reporting two or more races (0.8%).

Figure 8

Past Year Prevalence of Suicidal Thoughts Among U.S. Adults (2016)
Demographic Percent
Overall 0.5
Sex Female 0.6
Male 0.5
Age 18-25 1.8
26-49 0.5
50+ 0.2
Race/Ethnicity Hispanic or Latino* 0.6
White 0.5
Black 0.6
Asian 0.7
NH/OPI** 0.7
AI/AN*** 0.3
2 or More 0.8

*All other groups are non-Hispanic or Latino. / **NH/OPI = Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander / ***AI/AN = American Indian / Alaskan Native

  • Figure 9 shows that in 2016, 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older reported having serious thoughts about trying to kill themselves, and 1.3 million adults attempted suicide during the past year. Among those adults who attempted suicide, 1.0 million also reported making suicide plans.

Figure 9

Data Sources

Statistical Methods and Measurement Caveats

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

Population:

  • The survey participants are from a civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 18 years old or older residing within the United States. NSDUH does not ask adolescents aged 12 to 17 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).

Survey Non-response:

  • In 2016, 31.6% of the NSDUH adult sample did not complete the interview.
  • Reasons for non-response to interviewing include: refusal to participate (22.2%); respondent unavailable or never at home (4.5%); and various other reasons, such as physical/mental incompetence or language barriers (4.6%).
  • 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 2016 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.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255 Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-8255

Additional Resources

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