SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has the eighth-highest rate of middle-aged suicides in the country, according to a new government report.
With 220 suicides in 2010 by people ages 35-64, Utah's rate of suicides per 100,000 residents was among the highest in the country. It ranked behind seven other Western states, including Wyoming, Nevada and Montana, which top the list.
Utah's rate increased by 28 percent from a decade earlier, mirroring the startling national rise in suicides by middle-age Americans. The uptick came during a period that included the recession and the mortgage crisis.
By comparison, Utah reported 131 adult suicides in 1999 in the middle-aged group, which was the fifth-highest rate in the country at that time.
Maryland, New York and New Jersey had the lowest rates of suicides in this age group in 2010, shows the report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suicide rates have historically been higher in Utah than most parts of the country, so the new report is not surprising, said Anna Fondario, an injury epidemiologist who studies suicides with the Utah Department of Health.
The same factors that lead to suicides elsewhere are common in Utah: job problems, financial woes, relationship issues, substance abuse and mental illness. Nine out of 10 people that commit suicide nationally have a treatable mental illness, said Rick Hendy, adult mental health program administrator with the Utah Department of Human Services.
"There's hope in that because if you can identify a mental illness -- depression, anxiety or whatever it may be -- then you can treat it," Hendy said.
It's not entirely clear what unique factors cause the prevalence of suicides in Utah. Some studies have suggested that people living at high altitudes are more prone to suicides, Hendy said.
The state legislature recently created two suicide prevention coordinator positions.
To reduce suicides, state officials are trying to de-stigmatize the issue of mental health and suicide, especially among men, Fondario said. And the state legislature recently created two suicide prevention coordinator positions.
Three out of every four middle-aged suicides in Utah are by men, state figures show. Nationally in 2010, the breakdown was the same. Men ages 50-55 most commonly commit suicide, Hendy said.
"We're afraid to talk about suicide and ask those direct questions: are you suicidal? Do you need help?" Fondario said. "Just as we would go to get a checkup for a high fever, we should do the same when we have suicidal thoughts."