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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 

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.

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 2018:
    • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 48,000 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 54.
    • There were more than two and a half times as many suicides (48,344) in the United States as there were homicides (18,830).

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 2018. The data are based on death certificate information compiled by the CDC.

Table 1

Leading Cause of Death in the United States (2018)
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
692
Unintentional
Injury
12,044
Unintentional
Injury
24,614
Unintentional
Injury
22,667
Malignant
Neoplasms
37,301
Malignant
Neoplasms
113,947
Heart
Disease
655,381
2 Suicide
596
Suicide
6,211
Suicide
8,020
Malignant
Neoplasms
10,640
Heart
Disease
32,220
Heart
Disease
81,042
Malignant
Neoplasms
599,274
3 Malignant
Neoplasms
450
Homicide
4,607
Homicide
5,234
Heart
Disease
10,532
Unintentional
Injury
23,056
Unintentional
Injury
23,693
Unintentional
Injury
167,127
4 Congenital
Abnormalities
172
Malignant
Neoplasms
1,371
Malignant
Neoplasms
3,684
Suicide
7,521
Suicide
8,345
CLRD
18,804
CLRD
159,486
5 Homicide
168
Heart
Disease
905

Heart
Disease
3,561

Homicide
3,304
Liver
Disease
8,157
Diabetes
Mellitus
14,941
Cerebro-
vascular
147,810
6 Heart
Disease
101
Congenital
Anomalies
354

Liver
Disease
1,008

Liver
Disease
3,108
Diabetes
Mellitus
6,414
Liver
Disease
13,945
Alzheimer’s
Disease
122,019
7 CLRD
64
Diabetes
Mellitus
246
Diabetes
Mellitus
837
Diabetes
Mellitus
2,282
Cerebro-
vascular
5,128
Cerebro-
vascular
12,789
Diabetes
Mellitus
84,946
8 Cerebro-
vascular
54
Influenza
& Pneumonia
200
Cerebro-
vascular
567
Cerebro-
vascular
1,704
CLRD
3,807
Suicide
8,540
Influenza
& Pneumonia
59,120
9

Influenza
& Pneumonia
51

CLRD
165
HIV
482
Influenza
& Pneumonia
956
Septicemia
2,380
Septicemia
5,956
Nephritis
51,386
10 Benign Neoplasms
30
Complicated
Pregnancy
151
Influenza
& Pneumonia
457
Septicemia
829
Influenza
& Pneumonia
2,339
Influenza
& Pneumonia
5,858
Suicide
48,344

CLRD: Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease

Suicide Rates

Data in Figure 1 and Figure 2 are courtesy of the CDC ’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS Data Brief No. 362, April 2020).

Trends over Time

  • Suicide rates are 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 age-adjusted suicide rates in the United States for each year from 1999 through 2018 for the total population, and for males and females presented separately.
    • During that 20-year period, the total suicide rate in the United States increased 35% from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 14.2 per 100,000 in 2018.
    • In 2018, the suicide rate among males was 3.7 times higher (22.8 per 100,000) than among females (6.2 per 100,000).

Figure 1

Age-Adjusted Suicide Rates in the United States (1999-2018)
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

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 crude rates of suicide within sex and age categories in 2018.
    • Among females, the suicide rate was highest for those aged 45-64 (10.2 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; 2018)
Age Female Male
10–14 2.0 3.7
15–24 5.8 22.7
25–44 7.9 27.7
45–64 9.8 31.0
65–74 6.2 27.8
75+ 4.0 39.9
  • Figure 3 shows the rates of suicide for race/ethnicity groups in 2018 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 (34.8 per 100,000) and females (10.5 per 100,000), followed by White, Non-Hispanic males (30.4 per 100,000) and females (8.3 per 100,000).

Figure 3

Suicide Rates by Race (per 100,000; 2018)
Race Female Male
Hispanic* 2.9 12.1
White 8.3 30.4
Black 2.9 12.0
Asian/PI 4.1 10.8
AI 10.5 34.8

*Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race; all other racial/ethnic groups are non-Hispanic AI = American Indian, PI = Pacific Islander

Suicide Rates by State

  • Suicide rates are not the same 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 2018 indicated by color.

Figure 4

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 2018, firearms were the most common method used in suicide deaths in the United States, accounting for about half of all suicide deaths (24,432).

Table 2

Suicide by Method (2018)
Data Courtesy of CDC
Suicide Method Number of Deaths
Total 48,344
Firearm 24,432
Suffocation 13,840
Poisoning 6,237
Other 3,835

Percent of Suicide Deaths by Method

  • Figure 5 shows the percentages of suicide deaths by method among males and females in 2018. Among males, the most common methods of suicide were firearm (55.9%) followed by suffocation (28.3%). Among females, the most common methods of suicide were firearm (31.5%), suffocation (29.9%), and poisoning (29.3%). 

Figure 5

Percentage of Suicide Deaths by Method in the United States (2018)
Sex Other Poisoning Suffocation Firearm
Female 9.3 29.3 29.9 31.5
Male 7.5 8.3 28.3 55.9

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among U.S. Adults

Data in Figure 6, Figure 7, and Figure 8 are based on data from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)1 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

  • Figure 6 shows that 4.3% of adults age 18 and older in the United States had serious thoughts about suicide in 2018.
    • Among adults across all age groups, the prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was highest among young adults aged 18-25 (11.0%).
    • The prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was highest among adults age 18 and older who report having multiple (two or more) race (7.4%).

Figure 6

Past Year Prevalence of Suicidal Thoughts Among U.S. Adults (2018)
Demographic Percent
Overall 4.3
Sex Female 4.6
Male 4.1
Age 18-25 11.0
26-49 4.7
50+ 2.1
Race/Ethnicity *Hispanic or Latino 3.7
White 4.6
Black or African American 4.1
Asian 2.9
NH/OPI 3.6
AI/AN 5.8
2 or More 7.4

* 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 2018, 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 attempts in the past year was highest among adults aged 18-25 years old (1.9%).
    • Among adults across all age groups, the prevalence of suicide attempt in the past year was highest among young adults 18-25 years old (1.9%).
    • 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 (2018)
Demographic Percent
Overall 0.6
Sex Female 0.7
Male 0.5
Age 18-25 1.9
26-49 0.4
50+ 0.3
Race/Ethnicity *Hispanic or Latino 0.5
White 0.5
Black 0.7
Asian 0.6
**NH/OPI
AI/AN 1.0
2 or More 1.3

* 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 ** = Percentage not reported due to low precision

  • Figure 8 shows that in 2018, 10.7 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).

Interview Response and Completion:

  • In 2018, 33.4% of the NSDUH adult sample did not complete the interview.
  • Reasons for non-response to interviewing include: refusal to participate (23.1%); respondent unavailable or never at home (5.4%); and various other reasons, such as physical/mental incompetence or language barriers (4.9%).
  • 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 2018 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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