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A Deeper Dive into US Suicides: Who is most at risk?

After seeing numerous sources report on the “suicide crisis” in the US, we decided to take a look at the numbers to see what prominent trends we could pull out.

To see how the US is doing compared to the world, we decided simply see the suicide rate in the US over time, compared to the same rate in the world as a whole. We used data from Our World in Data, because they attempt to track rates for many countries around the world. For the data that represent the world there is more uncertainty because the numbers had to be estimated for countries that have less reporting on suicides. However, based on this visualization, it is evident that the rates in the US are rising steadily as the rate in the rest of the world steadily decreases.

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After seeing this we decided to take a closer look at the US to identify more specifically where the increase is coming from. Is it an overall rise over all kinds of demographics, or is there a certain subset of the population that is accounting for most of the increase?

Using data from the CDC, we were able to plot suicide rates for both men and women in the US, starting in 2001 and ending in 2017.

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Both trend upwards, which backs up the trend shown in the previous plot, which shows the rate increasing in the US at the start of the 21st century. Men see an increase of 4.2 suicides per hundred thousand people, while there was an increase of 2 per hundred thousand for women. Not only do the men have a suicide rate that is nearly 4x higher than women, but the number is increasing faster year by year as well.

Our next step involves taking a look at how the rates look when splitting the population up by age. To do this, we once again gathered data from the CDC on suicides in the US.

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Every group has seen a net increase since 2001, but some groups definitely increase more than others. In particular, in people aged 15 to 29 the suicide rate had an astounding 42.1% increase, and in people aged 45 to 59 the suicide rate had a 36.5% increase over the 17 years. These groups seem to be the largest contributors to the rising suicide rates in the country.

Putting the findings together, we can determine that men coming out of adolescence or around the age of 50 are the groups with the suicide rates that have been rising the fastest. Moreover, those around 50 have the absolute highest rates.

With more time and research, we think it would be very interesting to explore the actual causes behind the large increases, and the reason for discrepancies between groups. For example, people are quick to blame the growth of social media for plenty of problems in today’s world, and it might not be pure coincidence that its rise coincides with rising suicide rates.

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