A new federal survey estimates that more than 8 million adults in the United States had considered suicide during a given year, and more than two million actually made plans to kill themselves.
Women, Caucasians and those under age 30 were more likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to the first-of-its-kind study released by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study indicates a wide variation in suicidal behaviour by state. One in 15 adults in Utah had serious thoughts of suicide, the highest in the nation. Georgia was the lowest, with 1 in 50 adults saying they had seriously considered killing themselves.
More than a million attempt suicide
More than 1 million adults reported attempting suicide, according to the survey, which studied data from 2008-2009. Rhode Island had the highest number of reported attempts at one in 67 adults, according to the study, which appeared online in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The purpose of the study was to identify which groups are most vulnerable to suicide, said Dr Alex E. Crosby, a CDC epidemiologist and one of the authors.
Each year, about 35,000 adults in the United States commit suicide, Dr Crosby said. Prior research has shown that those who have considered suicide are at the greatest risk of eventually killing themselves, he said.
"The burden of the problem lies not just with those who die," Dr Crosby told Reuters. "We are trying to find out where the most vulnerable populations are."
Although the study did not examine the causes of the variations by state, possible factors are differences in demographics and access to health care, Dr Crosby said.
"One state may have a higher population that is young and female," he said.
The large variation requires having more than one strategy for fighting suicide, the CDC said.
"We need to work together to raise awareness about suicide and learn more about interventions that work to prevent this public health problem," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.
The CDC recommends that anyone having suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
(Reuters Health, October 2011)