The Grapevine

County By County Study Finds Growing Suicide Rates Around US

More people are taking their own lives in the U.S. A new study shows that suicide rates have been growing among Americans because of lower income, lack of insurance, reduced resources and increased number of gun shops. 

Researchers at the Ohio State University said that the number of suicides increased by 41 percent between 1999 to 2016. The most significant increase appeared in rural areas. 

Just between 2014 and 2016, suicide rates reached 22 per 100,000 people in rural counties compared to 17.6 per 100,000 in metropolitan counties. However, urban areas had higher rates associated with the presence of gun shops. 

The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, analyzed national suicide data and covered each county around the U.S. Researchers gathered data on 453,577 suicides by adults, aged 25 to 64 years, from 1996 to 2016.

The team found the highest increase in suicide rates occurred in Western states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, in Appalachian states, such as Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, and in the Ozarks, including Arkansas and Missouri.

"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," Danielle Steelesmith, lead researcher and a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, said in a statement

Steelesmith added the research team hopes their findings would guide future efforts focused on suicide prevention across counties. 

"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," Cynthia Fontanella, study co-author and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State, said. "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."

The other factors found contributing to high suicide rates in the U.S. are underemployment, low educational attainment, impermanence of residents, low social capital or interconnectedness of people and single-person households.

Steelesmith said better access to job assistance, food banks and nonprofits have been helping people living in cities to avoid desperation and have lower risk of suicide.

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