The data charted in this New York Times article about “surging” suicide rates in America contrasts 1999 with 2014, leaving no political argument to be made, and indeed, the more important points must be cultural. Still, cultural shifts often align with political ones, especially during the reign of a president who operates unilaterally and siphons billions of dollars of taxpayer debt to his political allies, who often have cultural motivation.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study on which the article is based shows that the real upswing began in 2007. Indeed, among men (who kill themselves four times more often than do women), there was essentially no change in the suicide rate from 1999 to 2006.
One key finding that the Times highlights is the much greater increase among those in the 45 to 64 age range. Of course, being in the New York Times, the article emphasizes the greater percentage increase for women in this group, but the suicide rate for women 45-64 went up from only around six per 100,000 to around 10, while the rate for men of this age increased from around 21 per 100,000 to 30.
Furthermore, there would seem to be something telling in the fact that 45-64-year-old men crossed over two other age groups. In 1999, men 25-44, 65-74, and 75+ all committed suicide at greater rates than 45-64 year olds. Now, the mid-to-late-career group is second only to the oldest group (which actually saw a decrease).
A CDC chart on suicide methods also seems relevant. For both sexes, incidents involving firearms decreased significantly, as a percentage; use of poison also decreased. Suffocation absorbed the difference. This may be a subjective assessment, but suffocation seems much less a dramatic statement and more an indicator of deep, considered despair.
Be that as it may, our fellow Americans are increasingly killing themselves during that period of life when they should be reaping the harvests of their hard work, both professionally and with respect to their families. The numbers remain small, to be sure; 30 out of every 100,000 is still only 0.03%. Still, for every suicide, there must be many others who persist quietly in despair (or not so quietly).
We should therefore take the data point as a warning sign to pause and take stock. What is it that’s driving our neighbors — particularly late-middle-aged men — to this horrible act? The answer is economic, yes, but it’s mostly cultural, and it’s nigh upon inconceivable that the solution is to be found in barreling forward with progressives’ radical redefinition of our society.