Report: Suicide Rates Are High And Rising Among Older Adults In The US

Mar 27, 2024

Research from The Brookings Institution published by Health Affairs offers insights into how policymakers can build a stronger behavioral health system to serve all older adults in America. This and a broader set of work on the topic is supported through the SCAN Foundation and looks at long-standing disparities in access to behavioral health care, particularly for Black and Hispanic individuals, who are at higher risk of developing mental illness such as depression.

The article cites a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reveals in 2021 and 2022, people ages 75 and older had the highest suicide rate among all age groups, largely driven by males. The article states that, on average, men have substantially lower rates of mental illness than women, but higher rates of suicide—and this difference is particularly pronounced at older ages.

The report also highlights that, 45 percent of people who died by suicide saw a physician in the prior 30 days, and 36 percent had an emergency department visit that did not carry a diagnosis of a mental illness in the year prior to their death. These missed opportunities limit access to treatment. So do other factors, such as high costs, lack of mental health clinicians participating in Medicare, and isolation, that pose barriers to receiving mental health care overall.

More information, along with policy recommendations, are available in the full article here.