More than 49,500 people took their own lives in the United States in 2022, the highest figure ever recorded, according to government data released Thursday.
The data was tracked by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) using death certificates and is considered almost complete, though it may still change over time. While the agency has not yet calculated the nation’s overall suicide rate for 2022, it is expected to reveal that suicide is more prevalent in the U.S. than at any point since the second world war.
U.S. suicides steadily rose from the early 2000’s until 2018, when the national rate surpassed its highest figure since 1941. That year saw roughly 48,000 suicides, equating to 14.2 deaths per 100,000 Americans. The rate then fell in 2019, then again during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts who study the issue believe this is common in the face of natural disasters, wars or other traumatic events where people initially band together, the Associated Press reported. But in 2021, suicides rose four percent. The number then spiked by about 1,000 in 2022, equating to a three percent increase over the previous year.
The most dramatic increases were seen in older adults, with the suicide rate increasing by seven percent among those between the ages of 45 and 64. Among those 65 and older, the increase amounted to eight percent. White men in particular have exhibited very high rates, the CDC noted.
Suicides in adults between the ages of 25 44 grew spiked by about one percent. The new data indicates that suicide became the second leading cause of death in that age group in 2022, up from fourth in 2021.
“This is maybe the most important story of the year. It suggests an incredible epidemic of misery in our country,” said U.S. Senator JD Vance (R-OH) in response to the report. “Every American leader’s heart should break over these statistics.”
The increasing suicide rate has coincided with all-time highs in drug overdose deaths. In 2021, more than 107,600 Americans died from drug overdoses, up 15 percent from 2020, which was a previous all-time high.