Like the rest of the US, Minnesota's suicide rate among middle-aged men is up


The number of middle-aged men taking their own life is growing, and has been for years.

In 2013, 683 people in Minnesota died by suicide, MPR reports, citing numbers from the state's health department.

Nearly one-third of those were males between 45 and 65 years old.

Years ago, in response to a reported increase in suicides among middle-aged men in 2011, the state's Department of Health commissioner said we "must do more to connect with those who are suffering and contemplating suicide."

Those numbers aren't specific to Minnesota, or to 2013.

From 2000 until 2009, the suicide rate nationally among men ages 45-54 climbed, from about 23 deaths per 100,000 people to about 29, according to numbers from the CDC. It also went up for 55- to 64-year-olds. (During that time, the rate for those 25-44 years old hasn't changed as much.)

(Note: The rate goes up for middle-aged women as well, but as a group, they are much less likely to die by suicide – in 2009, the rate among 45- to 54-year-old women was about 9.3 deaths per 100,000 people, one-third of what the prevalence is among men.)

Why this is happening isn't clear.

Julie Phillips, an associate professor at Rutgers, says her research found rates tend to go up for all middle-age generations – but even more so for the baby boomers.

In 2013, The Atlantic looked into what may be driving that increased risk for middle-aged men.

A lot of it, they suspect, is tied to societal connections. Statistics show men without a college degree usually become most disconnected from "core" institutions – a job, a spouse and civil society – compared to men with a college degree. Suicide statistics show men without a degree are the most likely to take their own life, the magazine says, which suggests there may be a link.

SAVE, a Minnesota-based suicide awareness nonprofit, recently began a male-targeted ad campaign to try to address the problem.

Last summer, the Minnesota Department of Health put together a suicide awareness report for lawmakers, outlining work it has done since 2000 in an effort to lessen the number of suicides.

That year, a state prevention plan was put in place, but it was revised in 2007. It's a series of grants and outreach programs, as well as plans for educating Minnesotans and showing suicide is a preventable public health problem.

MPR says the department recently unveiled an updated draft of the plan.

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