Suicide Rate in 2021 Marked a 20-Year Record: CDC

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April 13, 2023 – During the first full year of the pandemic, the U.S. suicide rate increased more than in any year in the previous 2 decades, a new analysis from the CDC shows.

The rate of suicide in 2021 was 14.1 per 100,000 people, which was a 4.1% increase over the 2020 suicide rate. After looking back to 2001, when the national suicide rate was 10.7 per 100,000, CDC researchers saw there hadn’t previously been such a large single-year increase.

There were 48,183 suicides in the U.S. in 2021, with the majority occurring among males. Specifically, there were 38,358 suicides among males and 9,825 suicides among females. That gender-based difference has been consistent over the past 20 years, with the suicide rate among males ranging from 3 to 4.5 times the rate for females.

There was no significant increase in suicide among females between 2020 and 2021, except for women ages 75 and older, the researchers found. (Recently, studies showing teenage girls have high rates of suicidal ideation – or thoughts of suicide – prompted the CDC to announce that teen girls are “in crisis.”) 

While suicide among females overall did edge up slightly from 2020 to 2021, the increase did not show what statisticians call “significant” changes, which is a measure of reliability. From 2020 to 2021, the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-old girls moved from 2.0 to 2.3 deaths per 100,000 girls, and from 5.8 to 6.1 deaths per 100,000 girls and women for 15- to 24-year-olds.

The CDC researchers noted that the overall increase in suicides in 2021 reversed a steady decline in the suicide rate stretching back to 2018. It’s not possible to point to a single part of the pandemic as the cause, a CDC expert said.

“As we’ve seen during other health emergencies, anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors can increase, and these all contribute to suicide risk,” Deb Stone, ScD, a behavioral scientist at the CDC Injury Center, told The Washington Times. “Additionally, suicide rates might be stable or even decline during a disaster, and rise afterward, as the longer-term sequela of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among populations struggling with preexisting inequities.”

If you know someone in crisis, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, contact the Crisis Text Line by texting "HOME" to 741741, or dial 911.