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Weekly Column – Why have suicide rates amongst women increased more than twice as fast as men’s since 2010?

Why have suicide rates amongst women increased more than twice as fast as men’s since 2010?

Nearly 45,000 Americans over the age of 10 died by suicide in 2016. This is more than double the number of Americans who died by homicide in 2016.

The general consensus amongst top experts is that very little is known about why women’s suicide rates are growing so quickly. There is never a single cause for suicide. However, there are factors that can explain an overall rise in incidence. Cultural stressors combined with the defunding of mental health care services along with the use of more lethal methods of suicide are likely playing a role. Additionally, CDC researchers partially attribute national increases in suicide for both men and women to the effects of the great recession and also the current opioid crisis.

Historically, women have attempted suicide more often than men but have been less likely to die by it. This has shifted over time as women have started using more lethal methods of suicide. In the past, women were most likely to commit suicide by poisoning themselves or overdosing. While these are still common, women are also suiciding by suffocation, hanging, and firearms, which are more lethal. Furthermore, women also face budget cuts that have decreased access to mental health services. Funding cuts for mental health services are especially problematic for those who traditionally would seek care, and now cannot. Ultimately, this can also increase their risk for suicide.

In order to address the nation’s increasing suicide rates, certain structural factors must be improved. This includes gun control and safety, economic recovery and access and funding for mental health care.

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