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May 1980

Suicide Risk by Birth Cohort in the United States, 1949 to 1974

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Mo.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(5):519-523. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780180033003

• Following the demonstration by Solomon and Hellon that in the past 30 years, successive birth cohorts in Alberta, Canada, carry successively higher suicide risks as they age, we examined data by birth cohort in the Vital Statistics of the United States by race and sex over a similar period. We found the same phenomenon, in reduced magnitude, in birth cohorts of much greater size. Not only does each successive birth cohort start with a higher suicide rate, at each successive five-year interval it has a higher rate than the preceding cohort had at that age. The regularity of this phenomenon over the past 25 years in the United States implies continually rising suicide rates in these birth cohorts. It suggests that whatever the cause of this effect, it is early and lasting. Birth cohort analysis appears to offer an important new tool for studying suicide. Its implications have only begun to be examined.

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