Disparities in Suicide

Some groups are at greater risk for suicide

Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. People of any age, race, ethnicity, or sex can experience suicide risk, but certain groups have substantially higher rates of suicide than the general U.S. population (13.9 per 100,000).

  • Veterans
  • People who live in rural areas
  • Sexual and gender minorities
  • Middle-aged adults
  • Tribal populations

These groups may disproportionately experience factors linked to suicide, such as substance misuse, job or financial problems, relationship problems, physical or mental health problems, and/or easy access to lethal means. Additionally, people who have experienced violence, including adverse childhood experiences (such as physical abuse), bullying, or sexual violence, have a higher suicide risk.Some of these groups may also be impacted by other health disparities. Health disparities are differences in health outcomes and their causes among groups of people.2 Groups can be defined by factors such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, geographic location (such as state, county, or rural or urban), sexual orientation, and gender identity. CDC is concerned with groups disproportionately impacted by suicide and tracks and monitors suicide rates in these groups.

Suicide rates differ by age*

Middle-aged Adults

Middle-aged adults (aged 35–64 years) account for half of all suicides in the United States, and suicide is the 6th leading cause of death for this age group.3

  • Suicide rates among middle-aged men were among the highest by age group.
    • Rates in this age group are highest for non-Hispanic white men (37.8 suicides per 100,000), followed closely by non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native (AI/AN) men (33.0 per 100,000). 3
  • Among women, suicide rates were also highest among middle-aged women. In this age group, the rate was greatest among non-Hispanic AI/AN women (12.5 per 100,000)  and non-Hispanic white women (12.2 per 100,000).3

Older Adults

Adults age 75 and older account for fewer than 10% of all suicides, but men aged 75 and older have the highest suicide rate (39.9 per 100,000) compared to other age groups. Non-Hispanic white men had the highest suicide rate among these older adults (46.7 suicides per 100,000).3

Youth and Young Adults

Youth and young adults ages 10–24 account for 14% of all suicides. The suicide rate for this age group (10.2 per 100,000) was lower than other age groups.3 However, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people, accounting for 6,488 deaths.3

Some groups of young people (ages 10-24 years) most at-risk for suicide include non-Hispanic AI/AN, with a suicide rate of 28.2 per 100,000. 3 Sexual minority youth are also at increased risk (see below).

Youth and young adults aged 10-24 have lower suicide rates, but they have higher rates of emergency department (ED) visits for self-harm (342.5 per 100,000) compared to people ages 25 years and older (121.9 per 100,000).3

  • This was an estimated 217,447 ED visits for self-harm among this younger age group.3 Girls and young women aged 10-24 are at particularly high risk, with their ED visit rate (487.9 per 100,000) being twice the rate of ED visits among boys and young men (203.3 per 100,000).
  • Further, the rate of ED visits among girls in 2019 was double compared to 2001 (244.3 per 100,000). 3

In 2019, 9% of high school students reported attempting suicide during the previous 12 months.4 This increased from 6.3% in 2009. Suicide attempts were reported most frequently among girls compared to boys (11% vs. 6.6%) and among non-Hispanic black students (11.8%).4

Suicide risk is higher among people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual

Data are limited on the rate of suicide among people who identify as sexual minorities. However, research has shown that people who identify as sexual minorities have higher rates of suicide attempts compared to heterosexual people. 4

Almost a quarter (23.4%) of high school students identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual reported attempting suicide in the prior 12 months.4 This rate is nearly four times higher than the rate reported among heterosexual students (6.4%).4

The rate of self-reported suicide attempts in the prior 12 months among sexual minorities decreases with age, from 5.5% among people ages 18-25 to 2.2% among people ages 26-49.

Suicide rates are higher among veterans

Veterans have an adjusted suicide rate that is 52.3% greater than the non-veteran US adult population.6 People who have previously served in the military account for about 13.7% of suicides among adults in the United States.6

  • In 2019, 1.6% of former active-duty service members aged 18-25 years reported making a suicide attempt during the previous 12 months. This was an increase from 0.9% in 2009.7
Suicide rates differ by race and ethnicity

Suicide rates are highest among non-Hispanic AI/AN people (22.3 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic white people (17.6 per 100,000) compared to other racial and ethnic groups.3

  • Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death among AI/AN people.3
    • Non-Hispanic AI/AN people have a much higher rate of suicide (22.3 per 100,000) compared to Hispanic AI/AN people (2.3 per 100,000).3
    • The suicide rate among non-Hispanic AI/AN males ages 15–34 is 61.0 per 100,000.3
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic people of all races. Between 2018 and 2019, suicide rates decreased 2.4% among non-Hispanic white persons. At the same time, they increased 2.5% among non-Hispanic black people.3
Suicide ideation is higher among people with disabilities

Limited data are available on suicide among people with disabilities. However, a recent survey highlighted that in 2021, adults with disabilities were three times more likely to report suicidal ideation in the past month compared to persons without disabilities (30.6% versus 8.3% in the general U.S. population).8 Prior research has also reported on increased mental distress among this group which is a risk factor for suicide.9  

Suicide rates differ by industry and occupation†

CDC researchers have studied suicide rates by industry and occupation. Industry is the type of activity at a person’s place of work and occupation is the kind of work a person does to earn a living. A 2020 CDC study found that the suicide rate among workers in certain industries was significantly greater than the general U.S. population.10 The industry groups that had the highest suicide rates are:

  1. Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction (males: 54.2 per 100,000)
  2. Construction (males: 45.3 per 100,000)
  3. Other Services (such as automotive repair; males: 39.1 per 100,000)
  4. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (males: 36.1 per 100,000)
  5. Transportation and Warehousing (males: 29.8 per 100,000; females: 10.1 per 100,000)**

The suicide rate was also greater than the general population for the following major occupation groups:

  1. Construction and Extraction (males: 49.4 per 100,000; females: 25.5 per 100,000)
  2. Installation, Maintenance, and Repair (males: 36.9 per 100,000)
  3. Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (males: 32.0 per 100,000)
  4. Transportation and Material Moving (males: 30.4 per 100,000; females: 12.5 per 100,000)
  5. Protective Service (females: 14.0 per 100,000)
  6. Healthcare Support (females: 10.6 per 100,000)

The workplace provides an important opportunity for suicide prevention efforts because it is where many adults spend a great deal of their time. Visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website for more information about workplace suicide prevention strategies.

Suicide rates differ based on where you live

Suicide rates can vary substantially across geographic regions, and rural areas experience much higher rates of suicide than urban areas. Suicide rates increase as population density decreases and an area becomes more rural:11

  • Large central metropolitan: 11.2 per 100,000
  • Large fringe metro: 12.6 per 100,000
  • Medium metro: 15.2 per 100,000
  • Small metro: 17.4 per 100,000
  • Micropolitan (non-metro): 18.1 per 100,000
  • Noncore (non-metro): 20.1 per 100,000

Suicide rates are highest among non-Hispanic AI/AN males (43.9 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic white males in rural areas (33.7 per 100,000).3

What is CDC doing to address health disparities in suicide?

CDC supports states, tribes, territories, non-governmental organizations, and university research programs to address our four strategic priority areas in suicide prevention:

  • Data: Using new and existing data to better understand, monitor, and prevent suicide and suicidal behavior
  • Science: Identifying risk and protective factors and effective policies, programs, and practices for suicide prevention in populations at increased risk for suicide
  • Action: Building the foundation for CDC’s National Suicide Prevention Program
  • Collaboration: Developing and implementing wide-reaching partnership and communication strategies to raise awareness and advance suicide prevention activities

Additionally, CDC funds the Comprehensive Suicide Prevention program, which aims to reduce suicide among groups that experience health disparities in suicide. These programs use suicide prevention strategies based on the best available evidence to help states and communities prevent suicide. These strategies can be found in CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practicespdf icon, and include:

  • Strengthen economic supports
  • Strengthen access and delivery of suicide care
  • Create protective environments
  • Promote connectedness
  • Teach coping and problem-solving skills
  • Identify and support people at-risk
  • Lessen harms and prevent future risk

Below are several examples of how CDC and our funded partners are working to reduce suicide rates among groups at greater risk.

Middle-aged adults

  • Massachusetts, Michigan, and Maine are working to reduce suicide disparities in middle-aged adults. Massachusetts and Maine are working to identify and support middle-aged adults at risk by implementing gatekeeper training. Massachusetts is also identifying and supporting at-risk middle-aged adults by implementing provider training in evidence-based screening and treatments. Finally, Massachusetts will identify and support middle-aged adults at-risk by collaborating with partners to educate healthcare providers around suicide risk and response to individuals at risk.
  • Massachusetts aims to reduce access to lethal means by promoting safe storage. Massachusetts is working to increase access to and education on the benefits of firearm storage safes and trigger locks, and to promote lock bags, locked cabinets, and safe disposal of over-the-counter drugs among middle-aged males.

Youth

  • Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Tennessee are working with their states’ departments of education to advance and provide social-emotional learning programs to promote coping and problem-solving skills or implement at least one positive youth development activity in schools to prevent suicide among school-aged children and youth.
  • Colorado, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Vermont are helping to reduce access to lethal means for children and youth by implementing Counseling on Access to Lethal Meansexternal icon (CALM) in EDs and educating families on safe storage of lethal means (such as firearms, medications, and sharp objects) within the home.

LGBT

  • Maine is working on promoting connectedness among sexual minority youth by:
    • Implementing a program to enhance resiliency among LGBT youth in both in and out of school.
    • Promoting a training to equip youth-serving providers with skills in facilitating family connectedness and positive relationships among LGBT young people and their caregivers.

Veterans

  • Massachusetts, North Carolina, Louisiana, and the University of Pittsburgh are identifying and supporting veterans at risk by implementing gatekeeper training.
    • Massachusetts is requiring all staff working in Massachusetts Career Centers to complete gatekeeper training.
    • North Carolina offers gatekeeper training as an option to healthcare providers.
    • University of Pittsburgh will provide gatekeeper trainings targeted to their veteran population to ensure that anyone likely to encounter a veteran at risk of suicide is educated on the risk factors and warning signs for suicide.
    • Louisiana is working to implement gatekeeper trainings for nine local health department regions serving veteran populations.
  • Massachusetts, Louisiana, and the University of Pittsburgh are promoting connectedness among veterans.
    • Massachusetts is promoting connectedness through community engagement to increase diversity, inclusion, and representation of veterans on the MassMenexternal icon website. MassMen features articles, blog posts, self-assessments, and men’s stories to help men find solidarity, promote wellness, and increase help seeking.
    • The University of Pittsburgh is working to promote connectedness and decrease social isolation among veterans in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through community engagement by implementing community greening projects.
    • Louisiana is working to promote connectedness among their veteran population by developing peer-to-peer norm groups. Peer norm programs seek to normalize protective factors for suicide such as help-seeking, reaching out and talking to trusted adults, and promote peer connectedness.
  • North Carolina, Louisiana, and the University of Pittsburgh are strengthening access and delivery of suicide care. North Carolina and Louisiana aim to reduce provider shortages by providing increased veteran access to tele-mental health services. The University of Pittsburgh is working to strengthen access and delivery of suicide care for veterans by working towards equal coverage of mental health conditions. The University of Pittsburgh is also working to raise awareness and education among health care providers and community members on existing mental health parity laws.

Tribal

  • Southern Plains Tribal Health Boardexternal icon and Wabanaki Public Health and Wellnessexternal icon are working to increase capacity to adapt, implement, and evaluate suicide prevention programs to reduce suicide-related morbidity and mortality. Each tribal organization is:
    • Reviewing existing data to describe the general problem and identify a subgroup that is at increased risk for suicide compared to the general tribal population
    • Developing an inventory of existing suicide prevention programs for the general tribal population and the selected subgroup to identify gaps and opportunities that will complement existing programs
    • Selecting at least one program from CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practicespdf icon, or another evidence-informed program, to fill prevention gaps and complement existing programs
    • Adapting the selected program to fit the cultural context of the tribe, and implement and evaluate the approach or program
    • Conducting listening sessions to obtain input during the project to adapt the approach of program
    • Disseminating results, success stories, and lessons learned

People with disabilities

  • Vermont is working to reduce suicide disparities among people with disabilities. Vermont is working to create protective environments by reducing access to lethal means through training primary care providers to promote safe storage.
  • Vermont is also strengthening delivery and access to care through systems change by supplementing and scaling up the state’s Zero Suicide work by engaging primary care providers serving people with disabilities.

Occupations

  • Massachusetts is working to reduce suicide rates among persons working in occupations that are at greater risk for suicide. Massachusetts is working to:
    • Promote connectedness by implementing peer norm programs for at-risk occupations.
    • Identify and support occupations at higher risk of suicide via healthcare provider education.

Rural

  • North Carolina and Vermont are creating protective environments by reducing access to lethal means through promoting safe storage of firearms in rural areas.
  • North Carolina and Tennessee are identifying and supporting people at risk. Both states are also implementing gatekeeper trainings, which teach community members how to identify people at risk of suicide and refer them to care, among rural counties/areas in their respective states. North Carolina is also promoting gatekeeper trainings among staff in rural schools.
References
    1. Preventing Multiple Forms of Violence: A Strategic Vision for Connecting the Dots. Atlanta, GA: Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/about/connectingthedots.html
    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community Health and Program Services: Health Disparities Among Racial/Ethnic PopulationsS. Department of Health and Human Services: Atlanta, GA. 2008.
    3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2020) [Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars
    4. Ivey-Stephenson AZ, Demissie Z, Crosby AE, et al. Suicidal Ideation and Behaviors Among High School Students Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. MMWR Suppl 2020;69(Suppl-1):47–55. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.su6901a6external icon
    5. SAMHSA. National Survey of Drug Use and Health: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults [online]. 2020 [Accessed: Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2019-nsduh-lesbian-gay-bisexual-lgb-adultsexternal icon
    6. Department of Veteran’s Affairs: 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. 2021. [Accessed: Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/2021/2021-National-Veteran-Suicide-Prevention-Annual-Report-FINAL-9-8-21.pdfpdf iconexternal icon
    7. SAMHSA. National Survey of Drug Use and Health: Veteran Adults [online]. 2020 [Sep 9, 2021]. Available from URL: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31103/2019NSDUH-Veteran/Veterans%202019%20NSDUH.pdfpdf iconexternal icon
    8. Czeisler M&, Board A, Thierry JM, et al. Mental Health and Substance Use Among Adults with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, February–March 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1142–1149. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7034a3external icon
    9. Cree RA, Okoro CA, Zack MM, Carbone E. Frequent Mental Distress Among Adults, by Disability Status, Disability Type, and Selected Characteristics — United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1238–1243. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6936a2
      external icon
    10. Peterson C, Sussell A, Li J, Schumacher PK, Yeoman K, Stone DM. Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation — National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:57–62. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6903a1
      external icon
    11. Stone DM, Jones CM, Mack KA. Changes in Suicide Rates — United States, 2018–2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:261–268. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7008a1external icon

* Rates reflect 2019 data unless otherwise noted

† Rates reflect 2016 data

**No other industry group among females had a rate of suicide greater than the general female population.