Widening Rural-Urban Disparities in Youth Suicide

In 2010, suicide was the third leading cause of death among young people in the United States. A recent study has found that disparities between rural-urban youth suicide rates have been widening. Young people aged 10 to 24 years, who live in a rural area, are two times more likely to die from suicide than those living in urban settings. The disparity across genders is also notable, with males having a suicide rate nearly double that of females in either setting.

Researchers analyzed the suicide trend from January 1, 1996 to December 31, 2010 by using county-level national mortality data and found that about 66,595 young people took their own lives using various methods of suicide. The major ways of committing suicide were by:

  • using a gun (51%),
  • hanging/suffocation (34%),
  • poisoning (8%), and
  • using other available methods (7%).

Researchers have come up with number of possible reasons why rural young people have the higher suicide rate compared to urban. Among the possible reasons are:

  • poor access of mental and behavioral health service,
  • greater social isolation, and
  • the availability of guns.

This study provides documentation on the extent of the rural-urban disparities in youth suicide, and begins to fill the gap about recent trends in this area. This data is key to developing policies and programs seek to eliminate geographic disparities. The authors state:

“Efforts to improve access to mental health services and offer social support at the local level could narrow the gap in risk for youth in rural as opposed to urban settings.”

View the abstract.

Additional Resources:

Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Rural Primary Care 

Emergency Department Suicide Screening Tool Accurately Predicts at Risk Youth