Posted on Sep 11, 2019, 1 p.m.
Disturbing findings from Ohio State University have found that American suicide rates are increasing, especially in rural areas which may be influenced by a number of factors such as lack of insurance, opioid addiction, depression, diminished income, deprivation, and prevalence of gun shops in certain areas.
National suicide data collected between 1999-2016 was evaluated to create a county by county estimation of suicide rates among adults between the ages of 25-64; rates were found to have increased by an alarming 41% in that time frame, from a median of 15 per 100,000 county residents in1999 to 21.2 in 2016.
As published in the journal JAMA Network Open suicide rates were noted to be higher in less populous counties and in areas where residents have lower incomes and diminished access to resources; between 2014-2014 for example there were 17.6 suicides per 100,000 residents in a large metropolitains county while there were 22 recorded in rural counties.
Among the urban areas with more guns shops the suicides rates were found to be higher; highest suicide rates were found mostly in the Western states including Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado, other states such as Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri also has very high suicide rates.
“While our findings are disheartening, we’re hopeful that they will help guide efforts to support Americans who are struggling, especially in rural areas where suicide has increased the most and the fastest,” says Danielle Steelesmith, lead researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, in a media release. “Suicide is so complex, and many factors contribute, but this research helps us understand the toll and some of the potential contributing influences based on geography, and that could drive better efforts to prevent these deaths.”
American suicide rates continue to increase despite a national prevention initiative launched in 2015 with the goal to decrease the rate 20% by 2025, according to research that goal of reducing the suicide rate seems to be unattainable. The team hopes the patterns and trends found in their study may help to shape new suicide prevention measures.
“For example, all communities might benefit from strategies that enhance coping and problem-solving skills, strengthen economic support and identify and support those who are at risk for suicide,” study co-author Cynthia Fontanella comments. “The data showing that suicides were higher in counties with more gun shops – specifically in urban areas – highlights the potential to reduce access to methods of suicide that can increase the chances an at-risk person will die.”
Deprivation was associated as being a factor contributing to the increased suicide rates, this is a blanket term that refers to a number of characteristics common to rural areas including low education, high poverty, and high unemployment rates. Residents in these areas do not have the same opportunities to those in other areas which may force them to not be able to find a job or rely on one that doesn’t provide any stimulation, enjoyment, or satisfaction. Residents in rural areas are encouraged to become more involved in their communities and to become more familiarized with the local support resources in their area.
“In cities, you have a core of services that are much easier to get to in many cases. You may have better access to job assistance, food banks and nonprofits that might all contribute to less desperation among residents,” Steelesmith says.
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