WASHINGTON -- There has been a disturbing increase in America's suicide rate, and our job-scarce economy may be one of the reasons why.
Historically high suicide rates are taking place among baby boomers in their 50s and 60s -- one of the age groups who've been among the long-term unemployed who can't find jobs and have stopped looking.
According to a report last week from the Center for Disease Control, there has been a 50 percent increase in suicides among this vulnerable age group. In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC cites the economy's high unemployment rate as one of the possible factors.
Overall, the CDC said, suicides among the middle-aged, between the ages of 35 to 64, shot up 28 percent. Notably, men were four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Suicides have become the 10th-leading cause of death in the nation. In 2010 alone, more than 38,000 Americans killed themselves.
While further study is needed to figure out why suicides are increasing, psychologists are already pointing to some of the likely causes.
"We've had recent economic downturns, the war is winding down, so we're seeing a lot more of an increase in veterans, who have 21 suicides per day," psychologist Kelly Posner of the Columbia University Medical Center told CBS News last week.
The jobless rate among returning war veterans is high. More than 800,000 were unemployed this year, according to Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He said the statistic was "a sobering reminder of just how bad this economy is for our nation's veterans."
These and other figures are the latest manifestation of the Obama economy's human dimensions that all too often get ignored or underreported in the rush of 24-hour news.
Last week's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report that the economy created only 165,000 jobs in April, in a workforce of 160 million, dominated all the headlines. Many reporters called the number "solid" and said it showed the economy was coming back.
But more sobering voices were not as impressed by April's figures, or those that came before. Employment numbers have averaged 168,000 jobs a month over the past 12 months, the kind of weak job growth "you would expect to see in an economy expanding at a 1.5 percent to 2 percent annual rate," says The Washington Post's chief economic analyst, Neil Irwin, who isn't buying the White House's ballyhooed exaggerations.
"This kind of growth cannot boost the economy toward full employment in the near future. If this keeps up, no one will be singing 'Happy Days Are Here Again' anytime soon," Irwin writes.