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Briefly

U.S. suicide rate fell last year

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. suicide rate fell slightly last year, the first annual decline in more than a decade, according to new government data.

It’s a small decrease and the data is preliminary, but the decline is “really exciting,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The fall may be partly due to years of suicide prevention efforts, like increasing mental health screenings, she said. Other factors, like the pre-pandemic economy, might also have played a role, she added.

Experts aren’t sure how the coronavirus will influence this year’s suicide numbers, though American mortality overall is looking far bleaker.

Suicides had been on the rise since 2005. In 2018, the national suicide rate hit its highest level since 1941 — 14.2 per 100,000 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted new death rate data this week showing that for 2019, it dropped to 13.9.

Drug overdoses rose in 2019, and deaths from falls were up too. But death rates for the nation’s two biggest killers — heart disease and cancer — were down, as were death rates for flu, chronic lung disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The firearm death rate was flat, probably because the small decline in suicides was offset by a slight uptick in gun homicides.

‘Murder hornet’ nest located

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Scientists have discovered the first nest of so-called murder hornets in the United States and plan to wipe it out today to protect native honeybees, officials in Washington state said.

After weeks of searching, the agency said it found the nest of Asian giant hornets in Blaine, a city north of Seattle near the Canadian border. Bad weather delayed plans to destroy the nest Friday.

The world’s largest hornet at 2 inches long, the invasive insects can decimate entire hives of honeybees and deliver painful stings to people. Farmers in the northwestern U.S. depend on those honeybees to pollinate many crops, including raspberries and blueberries.

Despite their nickname and the hype around the insect that has stirred fears in an already bleak year, the hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asian countries, and experts say it is probably far less. Meanwhile, hornets, wasps and bees typically found in the United States kill an average of 62 people a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

The real threat from Asian giant hornets is their devastating attacks on honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food. A small group of the hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in hours.

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