Gun shops, lack of health insurance associated with higher suicide rates

Suicide rates increased in counties across the U.S. from 1999 to 2016, but increases were most prominent in rural areas, according to new research published in JAMA Network Open.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In the 18-year period studied, almost half a million people (453,577) died by suicide. Twenty percent of those deaths occurred in the last three years of the study period. In 2017, more than 47,000 people died by suicide — about 10 percent of the previous 18 years combined. 

The study authors found the following factors associated with higher rates of suicide:

  • Rural areas
  • Deprivation, defined as lower education, employment and income
  • Social fragmentation
  • Gun shop density 
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Veteran population 

"Study findings suggest that increasing social connectedness, civic opportunities, health insurance coverage, and limiting access to lethal means within communities have the potential to reduce suicide rates across the rural-urban continuum," the authors concluded. "[R]ural counties present special challenges and deserve targeted suicide prevention efforts." 

Read more here.

 

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