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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Kentucky: Study Examines Suicide Ideation, Planning, and Attempts

Since 1999, rates of suicide have increased in nearly every state in the United States. In 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide.

This is a trend that has not spared the Commonwealth of Kentucky: suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the state.

University of Kentucky College of Public Health faculty members Dr. Tyrone Borders and Dr. Kathi Harp, both of the Department of Health Management and Policy, utilized data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to examine trends in suicide ideation, planning and attempts. The nationwide survey is conducted through in-person interviews of 60,000 people who are 18 years and older. It is meant to provide information about the epidemiology of mental health across the United States.

When the data were organized so rural and urban rates could be compared, Drs. Borders and Harp found that rural residents experienced higher rates at all three stages. Meaning, rural communities are more at risk of dying by suicide because they are more likely to think of suicide as an option and plan an attempt.

The study didn’t examine ‘the why’ but did evaluate protective factors and risk factors. “We consistently found more education is a protective factor,” Dr. Harp said. While this specific study didn’t have data on why a person commits suicide there’s a wealth of research on the topic. Economic depression is a factor that increases the risk of dying by suicide. Fewer economic opportunities exist in many rural areas of America and Kentucky, especially in rural areas with economies that are heavily dependent on single industries such as farming, logging, and minerals and have lower educational attainment, Dr. Borders said.

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