Suicide in mid-life

    A closer look at suicide rates in recent years has uncovered a new population of Americans who are at high risk.

    A closer look at suicide rates in recent years has uncovered a new population of Americans who are at high risk.

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    The suicide rate among middle-age white men and women increased 3 percent each year between 1999 and 2005. Before now, suicide prevention efforts have largely been aimed at teen boys and elderly men.

    Baron: For a number of years now we’ve been teaching medical students and the conventional wisdom was that older white men were the highest risk group and they certainly continue to be so, and certainly adolescents.

    Psychiatrist David Baron says the study now points to a new group of people who might benefit from prevention programs. The study appears in the online edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and spotlights the change among white Americans, ages 40 to 64.

    Dr. Baron leads the Department of Psychiatry at Temple University’s School of Medicine. He was not involved in the study, but says the next step is to figure out what mid-life influences could account for the up tick in suicide.

    Baron: And that might be resulting in an increase in depression and certainly suicide is very much related to untreated or poorly treated depression.

    There are no studies yet, but Baron says financial stress among white men, and the decreased use of hormone replacement therapy among white women close to menopause age, are two areas scientists may scrutinize further.

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