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Suicide by Hanging/Suffocation Among Middle-Aged People Doubles: Study

Update Date: Nov 20, 2012 08:14 AM EST

According to a new study by researchers from Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, much of the previously reported increase in suicide cases in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 can be attributed to an increase in hanging/suffocation.

The increase in hanging/suffocation is largest among those aged between 45 and 59 years (104 percent increase), Medical Xpress reported.

"Suicide recently exceeded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S.; this report is the first to examine changes in the method of suicide, particularly by demographics such as age," said lead study author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"While suicide by firearm remains the predominant method in the U.S., the increase in hanging and suffocation particularly in middle-aged adults warrants immediate attention."

The study also revealed that the proportion of poisoning instances increased from 16 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2010.

Also, there was a dramatic increase seen in certain age groups, with 85 percent increase among people aged between 60 and 69 years suffocating or hanging themselves. Altogether, suicide by firearm, hanging/suffocation and poisoning makes up to 93 percent of all suicides in the U.S., the report said.

"In addition to age, detailed examination revealed important differences across gender and race," explained co-author Guoqing Hu, of Central South University, School of Public Health, China. "Suicide rates are increasing faster for women than for men, and faster in whites than in non-whites."

It was found that the highest increase in the rate of suicides was among those aged between 45-59 years (39 percent). On the contrary, it was 8 percent lesser among those aged 70 and above.

The report specified that the overall increase in suicide rates in the U.S. earlier in 2012 was in part due to the effects of the economic recession.

"Recognition of the changes in suicide methods is a critical precursor to developing prevention programs and services," concluded Baker.

"Strategies that have demonstrated efficacy in inpatient settings such as installing break-away closet bars, lowering the height of anchor points and increasing awareness of risk indicators should be given greater attention for their potential to reduce suicide in other settings."

The results are published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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