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Elderly suicides rise in 1980s.

Elderly suicides rise in 1980s

Recently released federal statistics indicate the suicide rate among people 65 years of age and older increased by 25 percent between 1981 and 1986 in the United States. The elderly suicide rate has long been higher than the rate for other age groups but had been steadily dropping for nearly 50 years, a trend apparently undergoing reversal in the 1980s.

The six-year increase brought the suicide rate for those 65 and older to 21.6 per 100,000 people, according to data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md. During the same period, the overall national suicide rate climbed 5 percent, from 12.1 per 100,000 to 12.8 per 100,000.

The 1986 suicide rate of those 15 to 24 was 13.1 per 100,000, also a 5 percent increase. The suicide rate of those 25 to 44 was 15.5, and those 45 to 64 had a rate of 16.7; both groups showed a slight decrease in suicides. Youngsters aged 5 to 14 had a suicide rate of 0.8 per 100,000.

The Hyattsville center gathers its statistics from state records of death certificates listing suicide as the cause of death. These figure are thought to underestimate the actual number of suicides. Although the federal report offers no explanations for the surge in elderly suicides, some researchers have already noted a growing tendency among the elderly to choose "rational suicide" over the infirmities of old age (SN: 12/3/88, p.366).
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Title Annotation:Behavior
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 5, 1989
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