By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, Oct. 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Suicide in the United States is on the upswing, with rural Americans more likely to take their own lives than residents of urban counties, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
"While we've seen many causes of death come down in recent years, suicide rates have increased more than 20 percent from 2001 to 2015. And this is especially concerning in rural areas," said CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald.
"We need proven prevention efforts to help stop these deaths and the terrible pain and loss they cause," Fitzgerald said in an agency news release.
Between 2001 and 2015, more than 500,000 people took their own lives in the United States. Rates in rural areas were consistently higher than those in cities across all age groups, with working-age adults (aged 35 to 64) most at risk, the new report revealed.
Moreover, by 2015, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Native Americans and whites seemed especially vulnerable, the investigators found.
For the study, Asha Ivey-Stephenson and colleagues at the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control analyzed death-certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System. The researchers compared trends in suicide rates in rural counties to suicide rates in large and small metropolitan counties.
Overall, rural counties saw 17 suicides per 100,000 people, compared to about 15 per 100,000 in medium/small metropolitan counties and just under 12 per 100,000 in large metropolitan counties.
Race and gender also played a role, with males up to five times more likely to end their lives than women, regardless of where they lived, the findings showed.
The study also found that blacks in rural regions were less likely to die by suicide than blacks in urban areas.
In cities, suicide rates were highest among whites; in rural areas, suicide was most prevalent among American Indian/Alaska Natives.
All regions saw increases in suicide by firearms and hanging/suffocation, but rural residents were almost twice as likely to use guns as people in urban areas, according to the report.
James Mercy is director of CDC's Division of Violence Prevention. He said, "The trends in suicide rates by sex, race, ethnicity, age, and mechanism that we see in the general population are magnified in rural areas."
According to Mercy, "This report underscores the need for suicide prevention strategies that are tailored specifically for these communities."
One such program, called Sources of Strength, was developed with rural and tribal communities in North Dakota. At its core is an attempt to understand socioeconomic factors affecting suicide rates, the CDC authors noted in their report.
Help with suicide prevention is available 24 hours a day by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The study findings were published in the Oct. 6 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.