U.S. Life Expectancy Grows as Suicide Rates Hit Record: CDC

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Nov. 29, 2023 – New government data shows U.S. suicides hit another record high in 2022, but the numbers also contain good news about suicides among young people and about deaths in the U.S. overall.

The government uses data from death records to calculate life expectancy. U.S. life expectancy is now 77.5 years, with men expected to live 74.8 years and women expected to live 80.2 years. The CDC said its new data from 2022 represents an increase in life expectancy of about a year, compared to 2021 estimates. The increase in longevity is largely due to decreased deaths from COVID-19, and life expectancy would have been even greater, except more people are dying from the flu and pneumonia, health problems during and after pregnancy, kidney disease, and lack of nutrition.

But life expectancy of people in the U.S. remains lower than before the pandemic, showing that the nation hasn’t fully rebounded from the effects of the pandemic. In 2019, life expectancy was 78.8 years, which is still more than a year higher than the newly published estimate.

Other countries saw smaller impacts on life expectancy from COVID, compared to the U.S., and rebounded more quickly, Steven Woolf, MD, MPH, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, told The Washington Post.

“It’s disturbing but not surprising to me that we have not experienced the recovery that other countries have,” Woolf said.

A second newly released CDC report shows that suicides in the U.S. continue to increase, totaling 49,449 deaths in 2022. That’s an increase of 3% from the record-setting count in 2021, and sustains a string of increases spanning the 21st century. The annual suicide rate is now 14.3 deaths for every 100,000 people in the U.S.

The suicide rate jumped more among women and girls, compared to the rate among men and boys. The increase among females since 2021 was 4%, while the increase among males was 1%. When looking at suicide rates by age and gender combined, men ages 35 and older were more likely to commit suicide, and women ages 25 and older were more likely to commit suicide.

But the suicide rate among men and boys remains about four times the rate of suicide among women and girls. Per 100,000 people, 23.1 males committed suicide in 2022, compared to 5.9 females who committed suicide in the same year.

The silver lining of the report was that suicides among younger people, including children and teens, largely declined. After the start of the pandemic, suicides and mental health problems among young people increased at alarming rates, prompting a 2021 advisory from the surgeon general.

The report stated that “the challenges today’s generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate. And the effect these challenges have had on their mental health is devastating.”

The researchers noted that most suicide death data sent to the CDC require investigations to determine the cause of death, and deaths due to drug poisoning take the longest to report. In the past, suicide rates have been adjusted up after early reporting, such as the newly published CDC numbers. One area that may see future adjustment is suicide deaths among women and girls.

“Because suicides involving drug poisoning are a larger proportion of suicides among females, the completeness of provisional suicide counts for females typically lags behind that of males,” the authors wrote.