News from the FDA/CDC

Suicide in America: The urban-rural divide


The gap in suicide rates between rural and urban areas has widened since 2000 for both males and females, according to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Suicide rates in the United States by sex and urban-rural status

After remaining stable from 2000 to 2007, the suicide rate for rural males rose 34% from 2007 to 2018, versus 17% among urban males over the same period. Suicide rates for females were significantly lower than those of men, but the changes were larger. For rural females, the rate increased 91% from 2000 to 2018, compared with 51% for urban females, Kristen Pettrone, MD, MPH, and Sally C. Curtin, MA, said in an NCHS Data Brief.

For 2018, the last year with available data, the age-adjusted rates look like this: 21.5 per 100,000 population for urban males, 30.7 for rural males, 5.9 per 100,000 for urban females, and 8.0 for rural females. The overall rate for the United States was 14.2 per 100,000, with combined male/female rates of 13.4 in urban areas and 19.4 in rural areas, the researchers said.

Methods of suicide also varied by sex and urban-rural status. Firearms were the leading method for males in both rural and urban areas, but females split between firearms in rural areas and suffocation (including hangings) in urban areas, said Dr. Pettrone of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ms. Curtin of the NCHS.

Suffocation, however, was the fastest-growing method from 2000 to 2018, regardless of sex or location. Suffocation-related suicide rates more than quadrupled for rural females, and more than doubled for urban females and rural males, while rates rose 85% among males in urban areas, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System.

“Suicide has remained the 10th leading cause of death in the United States since 2008,” they wrote, and “sex and urban-rural disparities in methods of suicide may inform targeted suicide prevention strategies.”

SOURCE: Pettrone K, Curtin SC. 2020 Aug. NCHS Data Brief, No 373.

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