Booze, Guns and the Rise in Rural Suicides

[imgbelt img=Smokehouse530.jpg]Rural and urban suicide rates were about the same in the early 1970s.
By the late 1990s, rates of suicide were 54% higher in U.S. rural areas
than in U.S. cities.


Shane White, from North Country

“The red stain on a neighbor’s driveway never seemed to fade…” — Shane White’s graphic novel North Country, deals with the violence of his youth in rural upstate New York.

Attempted and completed suicides take place at higher rates in rural communities, especially in areas that have more bars and taverns than other rural places, according to a new study.

The numbers of suicides were highest among white men.

Suicide rates were higher in both urban and rural places with concentrations of bars and taverns, according to the report by Fred Johnson, Paul Gruenewald and Lillian Remer. The authors speculate that a wide range of factors contributed to higher suicide rates in rural areas, including widespread use of firearms, local economic problems and alcoholism. Three out of four rural suicides involved firearms, according to the report.

The study shows a sudden and sharp increase in the rural suicide rate beginning a generation ago. In the early 1970s, suicide rates of rural men exceeded the urban rate by just 4%. But by the late 1990s, the suicide rate for rural men exceeded the urban rate by 54%.

The urban suicide rate didn’t decline. The gap between rural and urban rates widened because of an increase in rural suicides.

To conduct their study, the authors of the report (“Suicide and Alcohol: Do Outlets Play a Role?”) tracked 581 California zip codes over six years, from 1995 to 2000. They counted the number of attempted and completed suicides and a host of other demographic and business data, including the presence of bars, taverns and restaurants.