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Nearly 1 in 4 suicides in Arizona involve a person 65 and older

Published: Monday, November 14, 2022 - 3:54pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2022 - 11:59am
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Arizona has a suicide problem, even among older adults. People 65 and older account for roughly 22% of all suicides in the state. That’s according to Dr. Cara Christ, chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

"One of the things you know that that's worrisome from a data collection standpoint is we know that deaths by suicide in older adults are underreported because older adults, they may have a chronic illness. And so there's passive behaviors that they can do, such as refusing food, refusing medication or liquid," Christ said. 

And that might not be recorded as a potential suicide death. 

In 2021, Arizona’s suicide rate was 35% above the national rate that year. And among older adults, it’s a big problem.

"So, one out of every four individuals who committed suicide were over the age of 65," Christ said. "That is a lot. And what we tend to see is that it's higher in white males who are over 65."

Christ says depression, substance use disorder, chronic pain or chronic physical illnesses are risk factors.

Something else, she says, "what we tend to see is that our older adults are nearly twice as likely to use firearms as a means of suicide when you compare them to younger individuals. And we know men are more likely to use firearms."

Older adults in rural areas also tend to face additional barriers because of the lack of mental health providers. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to clarify the population of older adults living in Arizona.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, there is help. Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 (en Español, llame al 988, prensa 2; for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, dial 711 then 988). You may also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.