Generation X now in their 40s and 50s are most likely to die from suicide

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Generation X now in their 40s and 50s are most likely to die from suicide or drugs than any other groups, new ONS figures reveal

  • The research shows the age at which people are likeliest to die from drugs is 44
  • Analysts believe continued hard drug use into middle age is partly responsible
  • The same generation’s high rates of overdose and suicide 20 years ago was reflected in statistics as a peak of deaths among 20-somethings

A generation of people born in the 1960s and 1970s, known as Generation X, are dying of drug use or suicide in higher numbers than other groups, new research shows.

New data for England and Wales from the Office of National statistics shows that the age at which most people died by taking their own lives or drug poisoning was concentrated around this generation in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were in their 20s.

Since that time, deaths from these two causes have continued to affect the same generation, who are currently in their 40s and 50s, to a higher degree than any other.

Ben Humberstone, ONS deputy director for health and life events, said: ‘Since the late 1980s to early 1990s, we’ve seen that those who are part of the so-called ‘Generation X’ have been consistently more likely to die by either suicide or drug poisoning than any other generation.

‘The reasons behind these deaths are complex but our most recent data suggest that those currently living in the most deprived communities are at the highest risk.’

Deaths from drugs and suicide have continued to affect the same generation, who are currently in their 40s and 50s, to a higher degree than any other (stock photo)

Deaths from drugs and suicide have continued to affect the same generation, who are currently in their 40s and 50s, to a higher degree than any other (stock photo)

The report follows drug deaths figures from last year which showed deaths from drug abuse have trebled in less than 25 years and have risen by 50 per cent over the past five years alone. 

There were 2,503 deaths recorded as caused by drug misuse in 2017, compared to 831 in 1993.

More than half of them were caused by abuse of heroin or similar opiates, including fentanyl, a drug that has become popular with addicts in recent years.

the ONS report concluded: ‘One possible explanation could be that this generation has a higher proportion of long-term heroin users with failing health and are therefore at greater risk of poisoning, according to Public Health England.

‘There was an upturn in the use of hard drugs such as heroin(opioids) by a generation of young people in the 1980s and 1990s. As users age, the long-term consequences of prolonged drug-taking tend to be more pronounced as the body loses resilience and users start dying.’ 

There were 2,503 deaths recorded as caused by drug misuse in 2017, compared to 831 in 1993

There were 2,503 deaths recorded as caused by drug misuse in 2017, compared to 831 in 1993

The ONS study showed how the same cohort of people, born in the late 1960 and 1970s, have been more likely to die of drugs than other generations and this trend has followed them over their lives

The ONS study showed how the same cohort of people, born in the late 1960 and 1970s, have been more likely to die of drugs than other generations and this trend has followed them over their lives

Public Health England said: ’40-49 year olds have the highest rate of drug misuse deaths but rates have fallen in all age groups except the very oldest (50-69 and 70+), perhaps further supporting the idea of an ageing cohort at greatest risk of overdose [poisoning] death.’

The age which most people die of suicide has trended upwards in line with the data on drug deaths. 

In 2017, 49 was the age at which most people died by suicide, whereas back in 1993 this age was 22.

In the early 1980s, people in their 50s and 60s died by suicide in higher numbers than those in other age groups. 

But by the late 1980s and early 1990s, most suicides occurred among people in their 20s – ‘Generation X’ – and in recent years, among those in their 40s and 50s – the same cohort. 

the study also found that for some age groups in England, suicide rates were as much as double or more in the most deprived neighbourhoods, compared to the most affluent.

The difference in the rates at which the most and least deprived people died by suicide was most evident in the 40s and 50s age groups, but with drug deaths this difference was much larger.

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