The year 2015 saw a record number of deaths in the U.S., contributing to a sky-high death rate that has some experts concerned. The data is based on preliminary research gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics from last year's death records. While the increase from 2014 to 2015 seems minimal, it's incredibly rare to see an uptick in the number of deaths, especially considering our societal advancements in modern medicine and public safety. It's too early to tell what's driving the increases—or if this is truly a phenomenon or merely a trend—but experts are citing the economic downturn of the 2000s, the opioid epidemic, and certain diseases as potential catalysts.
Arguably most surprising is the significant increase in suicide rates among young and middle-aged women. While men still die from suicide far more frequently than women do, the suicide rate increased by 45 percent for women of all age groups between 1999 and 2014, as compared to 16 percent for men. But suicide in general is an epidemic in and of itself; almost 45,000 people die by their own hand each year, and it's the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. That said, "This increase among young women could be misleading because the rate itself is exceedingly low, and only a small number of suicide deaths would be enough to drive it up substantially," pointed out Dr. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in an interview with CNN. "But we certainly have our eye on it."
One theory is that the growing pressure to balance a career with familial duties is putting some women over the edge. In the last 20 years or so, it's become increasingly more commonplace for women to work a full-time job in addition to managing a family and household. While it sounds antiquated, the majority of household duties still fall on the woman's shoulders, regardless of their employment status.
The average working woman spends almost triple the amount of time on household duties than the average working man, according to a study from the Council on Contemporary Families. Unfortunately, these small inequities make a world of difference when it comes to workplace equality, and evidently, mental health. "Gender inequalities in all areas are rooted in social structures but also in attitudes," said Professor Gillian Robinson, of the University of Ulster in an interview with Daily Mail. "It is difficult to see how women will ever have the same opportunities in the labor market if equality at home is not achieved." Comedian Ali Wong even went as far as (jokingly) saying that feminism and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In were the worst things to ever happen to women—commentary on the undue pressure facing women to "have it all."
While we are huge proponents of women staying in the workforce and demanding equality both in the workplace and in the home, we have to wonder if there’s a correlation here.
Do you think feminism is to blame for this uptick in deaths and female suicides, or is there another more sinister factor?
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline today.