The suicide rate among adolescents and young adults in the United States was twice as high in rural areas when compared to urban centers over the past decade, revealed a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics. The study suggested that the suicide rate for boys and young men was four times higher than for young females.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics and National Vital Statistics System between 1996 and 2010 and found the gap to be widening, with suicide becoming increasingly common in less populated areas and less frequent in cities. The research also suggested guns were becoming less common as a suicide method while hangings were on the rise among both males and females.
The study found that suicide was most common among males in rural areas, at a rate of nearly 20 per 100,000 people, while in cities, the suicide rate was half that, 10.31 per 100,000. Among girls and young women, the suicide rate was lower but the same rural versus urban divide was seen with 4.40 per 100,000 females suicides in rural areas compared to 2.39 per 100,000 in cities.
More than 50% of the deaths were by firearm, and 33.9% were by hanging. Almost 8% were poisoned and 7% jumped from heights or in front of transportation.
The study did not look into why rural suicides were higher, but researchers suggested an acute lack of access to care may be a factor. Senior author John Campo said, "If a rural child is depressed, it's much harder to get state-of-the-art care. And it's especially difficult to receive psychotherapy in a rural area."
Lead author Cynthia Fontanella said, "These kinds of surveillance studies can really help us identify areas to target our prevention efforts, and it's clear we need to target rural areas for primary prevention of suicide." The study authors urged a fresh push for mental health counseling in rural areas.