More Americans Die by Suicide Than in Car Accidents

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Sad_Girl_BlackMany media outlets have recently picked up the results of a study published in the American Journal of Public Health which shows that suicide has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of death by injury. Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death by injury between 2000 and 2008, but in 2009 suicides took the lead.

The study states, “suicide has emerged as the leading cause of total unintentional and intentional injury mortality in the United States… Our finding that suicide now accounts for more deaths than do traffic crashes echoes similar findings for the European Union, Canada, and China.”

Scientists are looking for reasons why suicide rates have increased by 15% in the past 10 years while MVC death rates have dropped by 25%. There has been speculation across the globe that the current economic environment is responsible for the up tick in suicide rates. Greece saw the suicide rate for men rise by 25% between 2007 and 2009, while Italy saw a 52% increase in suicides “motivated by the economic crisis.”

However, it is important to recognize that the current economic crisis isn’t necessarily the cause of the increase in suicides, as some media outlets would suggest. Economic hardship can be a stressor that leads to suicide, but research suggests that 90% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental health condition, most commonly depression. The study actually suggests the increase in suicides could be the result of increased awareness of suicidal behavior.

The study states that “distinguishing intentional from unintentional injury… can be quite elusive in verifying suicides.” In interviews, Ian Rockett, the author of the study further elaborated; “Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe.”

Looking towards the future - how can we duplicate the 25% decrease shown in MVC death rates? The study suggests that “reductions in traffic deaths can be attributed to a constellation of protective elements… motor vehicle traffic safety is the object of a wide array of national, state, and local interventions… Similar efforts will be required to diminish the burden of other injury.”

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