A Changing Epidemiology of Suicide? The Influence of Baby Boomers on Suicide Rates in the United States

Julie A. Phillips, Rutgers University

The increases in suicide among the middle-aged in the United States since 1999 suggest a changing epidemiology of suicide. Using data from 1935 to 2005, this paper applies an age-period-cohort analysis to determine the presence of cohort effects in shaping temporal patterns of suicide in the U.S. Special attention is paid to baby boomers, a birth cohort characterized by high rates of suicide in adolescence and now again in middle age. The analysis demonstrates that age, period and cohort effects are all important in determining suicide trends. However, net of age and period effects, the baby boomer cohort exhibits relatively low rates of suicide. Rather, boomers appear to have ushered in new patterns of suicide risk over the life course. Suicide rates begin to rise with boomers and subsequent cohorts exhibit increasingly higher rates of suicide once age and period effects are removed. Explanations for these patterns are considered.

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Presented in Session 36: New Perspectives on Suicide