6 Factors That May Increase Suicide Risk


Age, gender, and even sleep habits can play a role.

A person dies by suicide every 13.3 minutes in the United States, according to the latest data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). One of the top 10 causes of death among Americans, suicide remains a serious public health problem.

Suicide can affect anyone, but there are certain characteristics and conditions associated with increased risk. Here are six factors that may contribute to a person’s risk of suicide.

1. Gender. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to complete suicide. In fact, four times more men than women die by suicide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2012, researchers examined why some men are at greater risk for suicide, independent of mental health issues. Factors that played a role included lower socioeconomic status, the breakdown of a relationship, job loss, and middle age.

2. Age. In the past, suicide prevention was largely centered around the elderly and the young. But in recent years, suicide rates among the middle-aged rose sharply. The AFSP reports that the highest suicide rate in 2011 occurred among people between the ages of 45 and 64. Suicide rates among that age group jumped 40 percent from 1999 to 2011. The second highest suicide rate that year was among adults 85 years of age and older.

3. Race. In 2011, suicide rates in this country were highest among whites (14.5 percent). American Indians and Alaska Natives made up the second highest group of suicides (10.6 percent). Suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives aged 15 to 34 years old. Among Asians and Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, and Hispanics, suicide rates were 5.9 percent, 5.3 percent, and 5.2 percent, respectively.

4. Mental Illness. Among people who have died by suicide, more than 90 percent were previously diagnosed with a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The mental illnesses most commonly linked to suicide include depression, eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder.

5. Chronic Health Problems. People who suffer from health conditions like chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be at increased risk for suicide or suicide ideation. Depression is common among people living with chronic health conditions. For example, a study published in the journal Rheumatology found that people with RA are twice as likely to suffer from depression. Another study found that women living with RA are almost twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and complete suicide compared to the general population.

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