Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health sciences, NMSU

Suicides by Hispanic adults in the United States increased at a rate that far outpaced their population growth over the past decade, according to a New Mexico State University study.

Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health sciences at NMSU, found that suicides among Hispanic adults ranging in age from 20 to 64 increased by more than 70% between 2010 and 2020, while their population grew by about 25% over the same period.

“This is a major and disproportionate escalation given the increase in the size of the population versus the increase in suicide rates,” Khubchandani said.

Khubchandani analyzed a decade of mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand suicide trends among non-elderly Hispanic adults in the U.S. for a study co-authored with James H. Price of the University of Toledo.

“We wanted to focus on subgroups in this population such as gender, region, state, and suicide method to inform prevention and policy,” Khubchandani said.

The study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Community Health, found that southern and western regions of the U.S. had the highest suicide rates for non-elderly Hispanic adults in 2020. Colorado had the highest suicide rate for the study population at 25.52 per 100,000 people. New Mexico had the second highest rate at 23.99 per 100,000 people, while Texas, which had more suicides in the study population than any other state in 2020, had a much lower rate at 11.97 per 100,000 people.

The study shows that 31,174 non-elderly Hispanic adults died by suicide between 2010 and 2020. The vast majority – 25,236 – were men.

It also found that annual suicides by non-elderly Hispanic adults totaled 2,143 in 2010 and steadily increased to 3,681 by 2020. The suicide rate for Hispanic men grew by nearly 36% during that period, while the rate for Hispanic women spiked by 40%.

“More than 300 non-elderly Hispanic adults die of suicide every month now, but more distressful is the finding that the numbers have constantly been on the rise since the past decade and not much research has been done with this population,” said Khubchandani, who explained that most previous studies focused on youth, elderly or dominant groups of the Hispanic population.

The study results also indicate that the most common suicide methods for non-elderly Hispanic adults were hanging/strangulation, firearms and poisoning.

“Given the national debate on firearms, it should be noted that from 2010 to 2020, firearms as a cause of suicide rapidly increased in frequency among Hispanic adults,” Khubchandani said. “Among non-elderly Hispanic adults, firearms are now the leading method of suicide for males and the second-leading method of suicide for females.”

Khubchandani said more than 100 Americans die of suicide every day. He added that additional research on non-elderly Hispanic adults is needed to identify effective suicide prevention strategies and better understand risk factors such as discrimination and prejudice, mental health problems, sociodemographic and cultural determinants, and access to firearms.

“Public health practitioners and policymakers should help develop and implement policies to curtail the rising tide of suicides among Hispanic adults,” he said. “Such policies should address physical and mental health promotion, discrimination and bullying, income and benefits, firearm safety and education, and expansion of healthcare coverage for Hispanic families, etc.”