|Background. In 2014, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States overall and ranked as the second highest cause of death among people aged 10 to 34. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) collects data on serious thoughts of suicide, suicide planning, and suicide attempts.
Methods. This report presents findings from the 2015 NSDUH on the percentages and numbers of adults aged 18 years old or older in the United States who had serious thoughts of suicide, made a suicide plan, and attempted suicide in the past 12 months. Findings for 2015 are presented for all adults aged 18 or older, young adults aged 18 to 25, adults aged 26 to 49, adults aged 50 or older, and adult males and females aged 18 or older. Trend data for suicidal thoughts and behavior also are presented by comparing estimates in 2015 with estimates in 2008 to 2014. Statistically significant differences are noted among subgroups of adults in 2015 and for differences between estimates in 2015 and those in prior years.
Results. In 2015, 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older thought seriously about trying to kill themselves in the past 12 months, including 2.7 million who made suicide plans and 1.4 million who made a nonfatal suicide attempt. These numbers represent 4.0 percent of adults in 2015 who had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.1 percent who made suicide plans, and 0.6 percent who attempted suicide in the past year. These percentages for suicidal thoughts and suicide plans among adults aged 18 or older were stable in most years between 2008 and 2015. Young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2015 were more likely than adults in other age groups to have serious thoughts of suicide, to have made suicide plans, or to have attempted suicide. There was also an increase in serious thoughts of suicide among young adults between 2014 and 2015 (from 7.5 to 8.3 percent). The percentage of those aged 18 or older who attempted suicide was similar in most years between 2008 and 2015, but the percentage was slightly higher than the percentages for 2009 and 2014. The change between 2014 and 2015 was mostly due to a significant increase in young adult females (i.e., those aged 18 to 25) who attempted suicide in 2015, up from 1.5 percent in 2014 to 2.0 percent in 2015. Similar percentages of males and females aged 18 or older in 2015 had serious thoughts of suicide, made suicide plans, or had attempted suicide, but there were significant differences between males and females aged 18 to 25.
In 2015, the percentages of adults having serious thoughts of suicide were higher for past year alcohol users, past month binge and heavy alcohol use drinkers, past year illicit drug users, adults with a past year substance use disorder (SUD), and adults with a past year major depressive episode (MDE). Among adults in 2015 who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, more than half did not receive any mental health services in the past year, and about 1 in 8 perceived a need for mental health care but did not obtain care.
Conclusions. Findings from NSDUH on suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults are useful to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for understanding the size of the adult population that is at risk for suicide, tracking changes in the percentages of the population with suicidal thoughts and behavior over time, identifying factors that appear to increase the likelihood of adults having suicidal thoughts or behavior, and identifying whether adults who had suicidal thoughts are receiving mental health care. There are some limitations, however. For example, it is not possible to determine for the association between having an SUD and having suicidal thoughts or behavior whether adults experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior because of their SUDs or whether their SUDs were a consequence of their depressed mood or suicidal thoughts.
Contact us for a copy of this article, or view online at https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DR-FFR3-2015/NSDUH-DR-FFR3-2015.htm