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Why Did the Suicide Rate Go Up Again?

Nearly 50,000 Americans took their lives in 2022. What’s going on?

The number of Americans who died by suicide last year increased by 2.6 percent over 2021, according to just-released data from the CDC. This continues a long-term trend that has seen the suicide rate increase by 35 percent in the last two decades.

In this article, I will look closer at the CDC numbers, examine what’s behind them, and discuss a nationwide initiative that is helping people choose life even when everything feels hopeless.

How the Trend Varied Among Age and Racial Groups

Rates of increase or decrease varied significantly among different groups. For example, in the under-24 age group, the suicide rate went down more than 8 percent. In the 65+ age group, it went up by about 8 percent. The highest rates of increase occurred in the 75-84 and 85+ age groups.

Among racial groups, the highest suicide rate occurred among American Indian/Alaskan Native peoples at 28.1 suicides per 100,000 individuals. White people died by suicide at the rate of 17.4 deaths per 100,000, which was twice the rate of suicide among Black people at 8.7 deaths per 100,000.

One more grim number: Nearly 27,000 Americans died by gun-related suicide, a record level and more than half (55 percent) of the total number of suicides. About 26 percent died by suffocation/hanging, followed by 12 percent who died by poisoning.

What’s Contributing to the Increased Suicide Rate?

Among the many reasons people die by suicide, three factors may be driving the recent upward trend:

  • Loneliness. The U.S. Surgeon General detailed this phenomenon in the 2023 advisory titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” As the advisory states: “The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” Also, loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 26 percent, according to the report.
  • Delayed grief. This aspect may explain why the suicide rate actually went down slightly in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Research has shown that suicide rates sometimes drop during national disasters (like COVID). It then rises afterward as people deal with the longer-term consequences like job and income loss or a decline in physical and emotional health.
  • Prevalence of firearms. I mentioned the record number of gun-related suicides in 2022, which makes sense given the fact that there are so many guns in our homes. In 2022, 45 percent of U.S. households had at least one gun on the premises, according to Statista.

From the Vantage Point of Addiction Treatment

When reading about the nearly 50,000 suicides last year in the U.S., I thought about the more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths that now occur yearly. How many of those overdoses were intentional?

At the addiction treatment center where I work in Jacksonville, Florida, we’re on high alert for suicide risk among our patients. We screen everyone more carefully than ever. When people come to us who have survived an overdose, for example, we ask very direct questions, and put appropriate safeguards in place during their stay and after they leave.

A Vital New Resource That's Helping

July of 2023 marked the one-year anniversary of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

One year in, licensed counselors have answered nearly five million calls, texts, and online chat messages. These caring counselors are trained to de-escalate a crisis, provide emotional support, and connect callers to follow-up resources.

Since its launch, 988 has continued to improve. New services include:

  • More counselors (demand is high).
  • An LGBTQ+ subnetwork for adults under 25.
  • A Spanish language text option.
  • Enhanced online chat.

The Lifeline’s website also offers helpful resources as well as inspiring stories of hope and recovery.

Final Thoughts

As with mental illnesses such as substance use disorder, eating disorders, depression, PTSD, and others, the stigma around suicide is decreasing. As a result, people are talking more openly about it, and reaching out for the help they need and deserve.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is one way to reach out, but there are many others. The key is to act. Please do this if you are hurting. Urge your family and friends to as well, if you believe they are having suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know needs help in the U.S., call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or visit Outside of the U.S., visit the International Resources page for suicide hotlines in your country. To find a therapist near you, see the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Suicide Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation (2023). U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory.…

Gun Ownership in the U.S., 1972-2022. Statista.…

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