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County-Level Trends in Suicide Rates in the U.S., 2005–2015
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  • Pubmed ID:
    29773489
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC6038117
  • Description:
    Introduction

    Understanding the geographic patterns of suicide can help inform targeted prevention efforts. Although state-level variation in age-adjusted suicide rates has been well documented, trends at the county-level have been largely unexplored. This study uses small area estimation to produce stable county-level estimates of suicide rates to examine geographic, temporal, and urban–rural patterns in suicide from 2005 to 2015.

    Methods

    Using National Vital Statistics Underlying Cause of Death Files (2005–2015), hierarchical Bayesian models were used to estimate suicide rates for 3,140 counties. Model-based suicide rate estimates were mapped to explore geographic and temporal patterns and examine urban–rural differences. Analyses were conducted in 2016–2017.

    Results

    Posterior predicted mean county-level suicide rates increased by >10% from 2005 to 2015 for 99% of counties in the U.S., with 87% of counties showing increases of >20%. Counties with the highest model-based suicide rates were consistently located across the western and northwestern U.S., with the exception of southern California and parts of Washington. Compared with more urban counties, more rural counties had the highest estimated suicide rates from 2005 to 2015, and also the largest increases over time.

    Conclusions

    Mapping county-level suicide rates provides greater granularity in describing geographic patterns of suicide and contributes to a better understanding of changes in suicide rates over time. Findings may inform more targeted prevention efforts as well as future research on community-level risk and protective factors related to suicide mortality.

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