The recent suicides of two celebrities—the fashion designer Kate Spade and the chef, author and TV host Anthony Bourdain—have drawn attention to new federal data showing a rise in the number of suicides across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates rose by 25 percent between 1999 and 2016. In 2016, 45,000 Americans aged 10 or older committed suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the country (and one of the three that is on the increase—alongside Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdose).
What explains the apparent disconnect between this worrying/disturbing phenomenon and the concomitant increase in attention paid to wellness? Social connections are the “missing” link.
The authors of the CDC report said that one effective strategy critical to preventing suicide was to establish more “social connectedness.” Wellbeing pundits say the same: The quality and richness of our social connections are one of the most critical determinants of wellbeing. When they are left wanting, they negatively impact our social and mental wellbeing and, in extreme cases, pave the way for suicidal thoughts.
While the critical nature of “social connectedness” is now recognized, the suicide statistics suggest that society in general, and the wellness industry in particular, are not yet doing enough to rise to the huge societal challenge this represents.