Archive for the ‘Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior’ Category

Disentangling the person and the place as explanations for regional differences in suicide

August 11, 2011 Comments off

Disentangling the person and the place as explanations for regional differences in suicide (PDF)
Source: Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior (in press, via Nicholas Christenfeld, University of California, San Diego)

Cross-sectional studies have difficulty specifying whether suicides in a region are due to characteristics of the residents living there or to some enduring feature of the region. To distinguish these factors, we compared the suicides of a region’s residents with people who were temporarily visiting the region. Using United States death records from 1973-2004, we focused on states with the highest and lowest suicide rates over this period. The high suicide region consisted of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming; the low suicide region consisted of Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. For each region, we considered three groups of people: residents who died inside the region, residents dying outside the region, and visitors to the region. Proportionate mortality ratios were calculated for all suicides and separately for firearm suicides. In the high suicide region, visitors to and residents away from the region both held elevated suicide levels, to about the same degree as residents dying inside the region. Therefore, short-term exposure to the region and being a resident of the region each predicted suicide. In the low suicide region, the suicides of residents at home were reduced, but their suicides rose dramatically once they left the area. Firearm use was largely responsible for the extreme suicides levels of each region. Overall, the results suggest that both the available means to commit suicide and the contextual features of the regions contributed to their extreme levels. We discuss how an examination of visitors can help researchers generate novel inferences about the causes of suicide.


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