I was reading today on the MSNBC Health site about a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which shows a 49 percent increase in emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts for women aged 50 and older.

According to the SAMHSA report, women aged 40-69 are more at risk of killing themselves than other women, according to new research on age-specific suicide rates between 1998 and 2007. In 2007, this age group made up 60 percent of the 7,328 suicides reported among women.

The article begged the question which certainly demands an answer:  ‘But why middle-aged women?’

Following is an excerpt from Today Health contributor Julie Weingarden Dubin’s article Suicide Spikes Among Middle Aged Women,

It could just be a question of numbers: One in four adults in the U.S. has a treatable mental health condition, and middle-aged women are one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.

Or it may have something to do with baby boomers’ higher rates of substance abuse, an important risk factor in suicide, said Julie Phillips, Ph.D., a social demographer and associate professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Phillips calculated the age- specific rates from data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau. And during the nine-year time period she studied, suicide rates are fairly stable for women younger than 40, and for women older than 70, suicide rates are actually on the decline.

Women over 50 may also be in crisis because pain and sleep disorders — common problems with aging — can lead to an increased use of prescription drugs, according to Albert Woodward, Ph.D., the project director of SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network. According to the SAMHSA report, suicide attempts involving drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia increased 56 percent. Woodward adds that older women may experience depression because of health changes and other negative life events.

Loneliness and depression are also suicide risk factors. “Older women especially in the U.S. are more isolated and separated from daily human contact outside of work and the internet,” says Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology at San Jose State University and the editor of the journal Women & Therapy.

Dr. Leslie Beth Wish, a psychologist and licensed clinical social worker in Sarasota, Fla., has found through her online surveys, lectures and focus groups a startling increase in suicide attempts with women ages 45 to 54. Women are susceptible to depression but older women may also be suffering from pre-menopause hormone fluctuations that can affect mood changes and depression. Also, existing long-term illnesses such as lupus or multiple sclerosis can worsen and breast cancers and other cancers might be diagnosed.

My heart truly goes out to all women who are suffering from a mental or medical health condition that is impacting their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, but I can’t help but read this article and question the role that abortion plays in these cases.

Research indicates that women who have had an abortion are 162% more likely to be admitted for psychiatric treatment within 90 days of the abortion and are at continued risk for over 4 years following.  Additionally, post-abortive women are more than 460% more likely to abuse illegal drugs and 122% more likely to abuse alcohol (Coleman et al 2002).

And when it comes to suicide, the research reflects that abortion has a profound impact on women’s lives and the incidence of suicide.  According to the Archives of Women’s Mental Health (2001), abortion was linked to a 160% increase in rates of suicide in the U.S.  According to the British Medical Journal (1997), it was found to lead to a 225% increase in Britain.  And according to the Acta Ostetrica et Gynecologica Scandinavica (1997), abortion was linked to a 546% increase in rates of suicide in Finland.

These three studies, averaged together, reflect an increase in over 310 % in suicide rates following abortion.  Although some in our world still want to try and deny the credibility of such studies, the research continues to build and be clear:  when it comes to abortion, the effects are far-reaching and detrimental, not just for children, but for women.

Suicide spikes among middle aged women? When you consider that 1 in 3 women under the age of 45 in the U.S. have had an abortion and you take into account what the research and post-abortive women’s own experiences reflect, abortion is a leading factor to this spike.  If you or someone you know are in need of post-abortion counseling, please contact Rachel’s Vineyard (www.rachelsvineyard.org).