Hispanic suicide rate skyrockets as U.S. reaches all-time high in 2022
The United States saw the highest number of suicides ever recorded in 2022, with nearly 50,000 deaths
August 14, 2023 9:05am
Updated: August 14, 2023 9:05am
The United States saw the highest number of suicides ever recorded in 2022, with nearly 50,000 deaths, according to provisional data released on Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The data shows that 49,449 committed suicide in 2022—almost 15 deaths for every 100,000 people. In 2019 and 2020, suicide rates showed a downward trend.
However, in 2021, the suicide rate was almost 5% higher than the previous record high, which was set in 2018 with 14.2 deaths for every 100,000.
There was a further 2.6% increase in the rate between 2022 and 2021.
"Mental health has become the defining public health and societal challenge of our time," said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in a statement. "Far too many people and their families are suffering and feeling alone."
"These numbers are a sobering reminder of how urgent it is that we further expand access to mental health care, address the root causes of mental health struggles, and recognize the importance of checking on and supporting one another," Murthy added.
With the surprising number of people taking their own lives, suicides rose to become the 11th leading cause of death in 2021, just below chronic liver disease and above influenza. The same trend is expected for 2022.
The largest increase in suicide deaths by age group was seen in individuals 65 and older, with an 8.1% increase between 2021 and 2022 to 10,433 deaths.
The largest decrease was seen in children and young adults from 10 to 24 years old, with a decline of 8.4% to 6,529 deaths, according to the CDC data.
“Nine in 10 Americans believe America is facing a mental health crisis. The new suicide death data reported by CDC illustrates why,” US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Between 2010 and 2020, the suicide rate among Hispanic adults also increased by more than 70%, even though the U.S. Hispanic population only grew by by 25%, according to a 2022 study published by Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health sciences at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
“I think that, for me, the biggest surprise is that there have not been a few years where we saw a decline. It has been a constant increase, number one,” Khubchandani said in a 2022 interview with U.S. News and World Report. “Number two, I think this study is showing how prejudice and bias affects people."
Khubchandani said the increase among Hispanics is a disproportionate escalation compared to their population increase and added that while mental health issues among large populations typically get noticed, as do those among children, teenagers and the elderly community, the same attention has not been given to Hispanic adults.
One potential factor that has changed among Hispanics is their likelihood to purchase firearms, a trend that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Khubchandani said.
“I don't know if it was more Americanization, acculturation or they felt that they could be victimized,” he said.
“In my last national study, we found that middle-aged, young Hispanic males were significantly more likely to buy a gun during the pandemic. And I worry what the future holds for them because most likely they'll not use the gun outside, but inside the home.”
Nearly half of suicides are the result of a death with a firearm, according to an April 26, 2023 Pew Research study.
“Firearm control and, at the very least, firearm safety is a really important way to address suicide risk,” said Dr. Maria Oquendo, chairman of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association.
One way to increase suicide prevention factors, Khubchandani said, is to ensure that mental health awareness conversation occur in the Spanish language for the Hispanic American population.
“There has to be more aggressive effort, and it has to be in Spanish language,” he said.