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The financial hardships that came with the Great Recession appear to have been the root of a great jump in suicides among middle-aged Americans, a government report suggests.
The annual suicide rate for adults aged 35 to 64 years rose a dramatic 28.4 percent from 1999-2010, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Results of the study were published in the agency's just-released Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Analysts with the CDCP say the country's economic nose-dive into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s looks to have been the cause of much of the anxiety and emotional depression people reported over the last several years --- and at least one of the "possible contributing factors" that lead to the spike in suicides.
"Historically," the report said, "suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher rates observed during times of economic hardship."
CDCP researcher Dr. Thomas Simon told the New York Daily News that "while the analysis doesn't allow us to answer that definitely, a recent study found the economic recession was strongly associated with suicide among working-age adults."
The findings were not a great surprise to Dr. Dan Iosifescu, director of the mood and anxiety disorders program at Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital.
"Most people who commit suicide tend to suffer from major depression, and this vulnerability tends to be brought forth by very stressful situations like losing one's home or job," said Iosifescu.
The latest suicide trend was most evident among middle-aged white men and women who as an ethnic group suffered a 40 percent jump in suicides during the study decade between 1999 and 2010.
The rates in younger and older people did not change. Nor was there was little change in the suicide rates among middle-aged blacks, Hispanics and most other racial and ethnic groups.
So, why was there such a significant uptick among middle-aged whites?
One theory is that the economic downturn caused more emotional trauma in whites, who generally tend to not have the same kind of support from church communities or extended families that blacks and Hispanics do.
Another possible explanation considers the fact that white Baby Boomers have always had higher rates of depression and suicide, across all ages.
During the 1999-2010 period, suicide rose from the eighth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.
More people as well committed suicide in 2010 than died from motor vehicle accidents, with 38,364 suicide deaths and 33,687 car crash mortalities respectively.
The suicide rate for whites aged 35 to 64 in the period studied rose from about 16 suicides per 100,000 people to 22 per 100,000.
Overall, middle-age whites accounted for 57 percent of all suicides during the research time frame.
As described on the CDCP website, "depression is characterized by depressed or sad mood, diminished interest in activities which used to be pleasurable, weight gain or loss, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue, inappropriate guilt, difficulties concentrating, as well as recurrent thoughts of death.
"But depression is more than a 'bad day,'" the site post reads. "Diagnostic criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association dictate that five or more of the above symptoms must be present for a continuous period of at least two weeks. As an illness, depression falls within the spectrum of affective disorders" and "as research has found that interpersonal relationships are particularly likely to suffer when someone is depressed, data suggest that few families or networks of friends are likely to remain unaffected by depression."
Officials at the CDCP emphasize that major depression is often unrecognized and "may foster tragic consequences, such as suicide and impaired interpersonal relationships."
Some potential warning signs that someone may be suffering from depression include smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and sleep disturbances, aside from the aforementioned strained relationships with family, colleagues and friends.