The New York Times just ran an article about a disturbing spike in the number of suicides among middle-aged Americans, which is only just beginning to attract more attention, research, and prevention resources. The hypothetical causes discussed included depression, a decrease in the use of hormone-replacement therapy, and an increase in the use of prescription drugs. I thought for sure that the article would delve into the issue of financial stresses, but it didn't, really, other than alluding to unemployment as a possible trigger, among a list of things such as failed romances and substance abuse. The comments on the Times website, however, immediately hit that topic:
It's the economy, stupid. People aged 45-55 are among those most likely to be downsized, outsourced, laid off. Then they have no insurance or affordable medical care until they reach 65. Life has been getter tougher for many people, and national events are not cause for optimism.
— ajdemar, ca
Another factor is likely the economy. Suicides also tend to increase during severe economic downturns. Remember the "Great Depression?"
— Leo Toribio, Pittsburgh, PA
It's better to take control than to lose control. Life is getting longer, the risks are greater that as I age I will have bankrupting health or other problems and run out of economic resources. Our emphasis on individual rights and the knee-jerk resistance to taxation in this country means we are all on our own, that there is no social safety net in the USA like we see in most Western European countries; if something unforeseen should happen, I don't want to end up on the street or in a nursing home on medicaid... have you seen what that's like? And finally, being gay, I don't have confidence that my oh-so-christian family will be there for me if I should need help. It's a dog eat dog world. Who needs it?
— W, California
Other reasons were also mentioned in the comments, such as 9/11, the war in Iraq, and an increase in ageism in our youth-obsessed culture. Whatever the reasons, it's certainly a sad topic and certainly one that I hope never to have to face in my own family.