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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. |
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New Jersey’s suicide rates in 1999-2000 were highest in non-Hispanic white males age 65 and older. There were nearly 600 suicides in the state in 2000, nearly twice the number of homicides for that year. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24 years, and the fifth leading cause for those aged 25-44 years.
In general, suicide rates were far higher among males than females. However, females have higher rates of attempted suicide.
In the elderly, “cumulative loss” can lead to suicide – that is, the loss of a spouse, job, status or income brought on by retirement. Many elderly people suffer from untreated depression, which, along with alcohol abuse, are significant risk factors for suicide. Chronic pain and other physical infirmities also may play a role. Older people are more likely to have visited a health care provider shortly before their suicide. Older adults are also more likely to use highly lethal methods, particularly firearms, and are far more likely to be successful.
“Health care providers should be alert for signs of depression and other suicide risk factors in patients of all ages,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. “Health care providers should be especially vigilant for the risk factors for suicide in older patients with chronic health problems or those who have suffered job and other personal losses.”
The study found suicide rates were higher in the southern and northwestern counties, which is consistent with a national pattern of higher suicide rates in rural, less densely populated states. Suicide rates were highest in
One theory the report offers for higher rates in rural areas is higher rates of gun ownership in rural counties. Gun ownership is generally more common in
When committing suicide, males are more likely to use firearms – one of the most lethal means -- while women are more likely to use poison. Firearm use in suicides also increases in older age groups.
“While there has been increasing awareness of the risks firearms in the home pose to children, we should also educate about the risks they pose to older adults. Health care providers may wish to counsel older white males in particular, and their family members, on this issue,” said Katherine Hempstead, director of the department’s Center for Health Statistics and author of the report.
HealthEASE, a two-year pilot project funded by the Robert W. Johnson Foundation, helps senior citizens manage the changes associated with aging. The program stresses coping strategies such as maintaining social contacts, developing a support system, and managing stress. Older adults needing further help are referred to local community mental health resources. The program is being piloted in
In the last two years,
The Topics in Health Statistics report on suicide in 1999-2000 is the latest in a series that covers a wide range of health topics. The full report series may be viewed at http://www.state.nj.us/health/chs/topics.htm.
NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, CaregiverNJ web site – Support Groups, and Counseling, Drug and Alcohol and Support Services: http://www.state.nj.us/caregivernj/resources/support.shtml#coun.
NJ Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360