The U.S. suicide rate has increased sharply since the turn of the century, led by an even greater rise among middle-aged white people, particularly women, according to federal data released Friday.
Last decade’s severe recession, more drug addiction, “gray divorce,” increased social isolation, and even the rise of the Internet and social media may have contributed to the growth in suicide, according to a variety of people who study the issue.
But economic distress — and dashed hopes generally — may underpin some of the increase, particularly for middle-aged white people. The data showed a 1 percent annual increase in suicide between 1999 and 2006 but a 2 percent yearly hike after that, as the economy deteriorated, unemployment skyrocketed and millions lost their homes.
“People [were] growing up with a certain expectation . . . and the Great Recession and other things have really changed that,” said Julie A. Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University who studies the demography of suicide. “Things aren’t panning out the way people expect. I feel for sure that has had an effect.”