Towards a Developmental Epidemiology of Suicide

Authors: Kate Lester*, University of North Texas
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Location Theory, United States
Keywords: Health, Suicide, Mental Health
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Suicide is intimately bound to identity issues, which are not evenly distributed across race/ethnicity, gender, or age. Unfortunately, most suicide research is done at the aggregate level, obscuring issues of minorities and women, and assuming their patterns will follow those of the dominant group-white men. This analysis disaggregates suicide rates into ten categories based on race/ethnicity and gender. Using descriptive statistics and Spearman’s correlation, I show significant differences among the groups in both life course and spatial distribution of high suicide risk. The suicide risk is highest for black and Native Americans in early adulthood, while risk is highest late in life for Asian-Pacific Islanders and Hispanic men. White women and Hispanic women are at highest risk in middle age, while white men demonstrate a bimodal distribution, with one high at middle age and another in old age. Spatially, some states are high-risk for nearly every group, including Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico. However, some of the smaller groups have higher rates of suicide in areas that have a low overall burden of suicide. For example, black women are especially at risk in the Pacific Northwest, while suicide among Asian women is at its highest in the upper Midwest. Given that resources are allocated based on where burden is highest, black women and Asian women are unlikely to benefit equally from suicide interventions designed at the aggregate population level. Suicide policy must address this variability among groups to avoid focusing all resources on the dominant group of older, white males.

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