Friday, March 17, 2017

CDC study says rural suicide rates outpacing urban ones, suggests possible link to rise in opioid use

U.S. suicide rates are growing faster in rural areas than urban ones, says a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, which used annual county-level mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System and U.S. Census Bureau to analyze suicide rate trends from 1999-2015, found that after declining since 1986, the U.S. suicide rate increased from 2000-15, with 600,000 suicides during the study period.

Researchers wrote: "Geographic disparities in suicide rates might be associated with suicide risk factors known to be highly prevalent in less urban areas, such as limited access to mental health care, made worse by shortages in behavioral health care providers in these areas, and greater social isolation. Such disparities might also reflect the influence of the opioid overdose epidemic. This epidemic is known to have disproportionately affected less urban areas during the earlier part of the study period and opioid misuse is associated with increased risk for suicide."

The study found that "it's also possible that economic pressures may have played a role," Margaret Farley Steele reports for HealthDay News. "The biggest increase in the suicide gap occurred beginning in 2007-2008, when the U.S. economy was experiencing a severe recession." Researchers also noted a lack of health care providers in rural areas. (CDC graphic: Suicide rates from 1999-2015)

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