Home / Health / Articles / The US suicide rate has climbed 36% over the past two decades

In 2021, 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicide. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10–14 and 20–34 in 2021.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines “suicidal ideation” as “thinking about, considering or planning suicide.”

The suicide rate in the United States has steadily increased over the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021 — this represents a 36% increase in the national suicide rate since 2000. According to preliminary data, the national suicide rate increased an additional 2% between 2021 and 2022.

Which ages have suicide as a top cause of death?

Suicide was among the top nine leading causes of death for people ages 10–64 in 2021.

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Suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2021 for people ages 10–14 and 25–34 and the third- and fifth-leading cause of death for people ages 15–24 and 35–44, respectively. Between 2021 and 2020, suicide rates increased in every age cohort except for the 45–54 group.

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How did suicide rates change during the pandemic?

The age-adjusted suicide death rate decreased from 13.9 to 13.5 deaths per 100,000 people between 2019 and 2020. The rate increased to 14.1 in 2021, resuming its long-standing upward trend. Preliminary estimates for 2022 place the suicide rate at 14.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

NIMH highlighted the pandemic’s toll on young people in particular. While the suicide rate fell during the first year of the pandemic, it increased among pre-teens and young adults. There were more suicides among 5 to 24-year-olds (5,568 total) during the first 10 months of the pandemic than the anticipated number had the pandemic not occurred. In particular, there were higher-than-expected rates among boys and young men, preteens between the ages of 5 and 12, young adults ages 18-24, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native youth, and non-Hispanic Black youth.

Which demographics are at greater risk for suicide?

In 2021, nearly 47% of all suicides occurred in adults between the ages of 35 and 64. In this age group, suicides were highest for American Indian and Alaska Native men (41.3 suicides per 100,000) followed by white men (35.7 suicides per 100,000).

Although suicide rates among youth are low relative to adults, the CDC’s Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey reports that 26.3% of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide in 2021 — five times the rate of their heterosexual peers.

Veterans accounted for 13.9% of all adult suicides in the US, a 57.3% greater suicide risk than non-veteran adults in 2020.

Suicide rates for men overall were 3–4.5 times higher than for women from 2001–2021.

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Wyoming had the highest state suicide rate in 2021, and New Jersey had the lowest

Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska had the highest suicide rates in 2021 at 32.3, 32.0, and 30.8 suicides per 100,000 people, respectively. New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts had the lowest rates at 7.1, 7.9, and 8.0.

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Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native people have disproportionately high suicide rates

In 2021, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native people had the highest rate of suicide, at 28.1 deaths per 100,000. This was followed by non-Hispanic white people with 17.4, and non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders at 12.6. In comparison, non-Hispanic Asian people had the lowest suicide rate at 6.8.

Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black, and multiracial people had rates of 7.9, 8.7, and 9.7, respectively.

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What factors increase suicide risk?

The CDC identifies four primary factors that increase suicide risk.

  • Individual risk factors include previous suicide attempts, a history of mental illness, and job or financial loss.
  • Relationship risk factors come from hurtful interactions with other people, such as bullying, social isolation, and loss of relationships.
  • Community risk factors are structural and social issues , such as discrimination and lack of access to healthcare.
  • Societal risk factors are larger cultural and environmental factors, such as a stigma against mental illness and unsafe depictions of suicide in media.

Firearms are the most common suicide method

About 55% of the 48,183 people who died by suicide in 2021 used a firearm.

Over a quarter of suicide deaths in 2021 involved suffocation, making it the second most common method, followed by poisoning at 11.6%. The remaining 8% were categorized as “other.”

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If you are struggling with mental health issues, call the SAMHSA National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), a free, confidential, 24/7, year-round treatment referral and information service. Or, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help immediately and call 911.

Learn more about the role that schools play in addressing youth mental health, the mental health of queer teens, and get the data directly in your inbox by signing up for our email newsletter.

Provisional Mortality Statistics
Last updated
May 2023