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Suicides are surprisingly high among middle-aged men in the US

Actor Robin Williams arrives at singer-songwriter Elton John's 60th birthday party in New York March 24, 2007.
Reuters/Eric Thayer
Robin Williams died after battling depression for decades.
By Sonali Kohli
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Actor Robin Williams was found dead in his home Monday at the age of 63, the result of an apparent suicide after a long struggle with depression. Though suicide awareness and prevention efforts in the US are largely targeted toward either teens or the elderly, Williams represents a demographic of the country—middle-aged, white, male—with an increasing incidence of suicide.

Suicide occurrence in the US is most common among middle-aged people. Between 1999 and 2011, more than 48,600 people between the ages of 45 and 49 committed suicide, compared with 20,930 teens between the ages of 15 and 19.


Overall there were 39,518 suicides in the US just in 2011, part of a rising trend according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 2011 suicides, 31,003 were by men or boys, and 13,406 were by white men between the ages of 40 and 64. (Rates for US men of other races tend to be lower.)


Men are more likely to commit suicide when they’re without traditional support systems—family and employment, for example. This isn’t just an American occurrence: in the UK, another society where men’s careers often are touted as a key part of their identity, middle-aged men were far more likely to commit suicide during the last economic recession compared with people in other demographics.

Here are resources for middle-aged and older Americans who have suicidal thoughts:

Friendship line: 1-800-971-0016

Veterans crisis line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1 to talk to someone right away, or start a confidential chat on the site)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

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