Suicide and marital status in the United States, 1991-1996: is widowhood a risk factor?

Am J Public Health. 2002 Sep;92(9):1518-22. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.9.1518.


Objectives: This study examined whether marital status is associated with suicide rates among various age, sex, and racial groups, in particular with widowhood among young adults of both sexes.

Methods: US national suicide mortality data were compiled for the years 1991-1996, and suicide rates were broken down by race, 5-year age groups, sex, and marital status.

Results: Data on suicide rates indicated an approximately 17-fold increase among young widowed White men (aged 20-34 years), a 9-fold increase among young widowed African American men, and lesser increases among young widowed White women compared with their married counterparts.

Conclusions: National data suggest that as many as 1 in 400 White and African American widowed men aged 20-35 years will die by suicide in any given year (compared with 1 in 9000 married men in the general population).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status / ethnology
  • Marital Status / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide / ethnology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Widowhood / ethnology
  • Widowhood / statistics & numerical data*