Adult and teen suicide rates are nearly double among individuals living in rural areas compared to individuals in urban areas, despite modern communication, a new study concludes.
Suicide rates have traditionally been higher among rural teens than in city youths. A new study examining youth and young adults between the ages of 10 to 24 examined whether modern technology, including social networking, may be alleviating this phenomenon. Between the years 1996 and 2010, children and young adults living in country settings were found to commit suicide twice as often as those in urban areas, investigators found.
A total of 66,595 American youths committed suicide during the period of time examined by researchers. Male youths living in the city ended their lives at a rate of 10.31 per 100,000, compared to 19.93 for those living in the country. Females had a much lower suicide rate, at 2.39 per 100,000 in the city, versus 4.40 in rural settings.
The disparity between urban and rural suicide rates is becoming greater over that time, according to the study.
While deaths by firearms were down during that period for both males and females, suicides involving hanging or other asphyxiation methods rose among both genders.
During that time people, the world became much more interconnected, as Web sites, instant messaging and social networking became common. For many people, this technology allowed them to connect to others in far-flung nations, and with people from far-different lifestyles. However, this greater degree of interconnection does not seem to be reliving suicide rates among young people, the research found.
"We were not surprised by the higher rates in rural areas. What was surprising is that the gap/disparity is widening over time. As for the advances in technology, although more technology is available, the 'playing field' is not necessarily level due to differences in the culture surrounding rural life," Cynthia Fontanella of The Ohio State University, said.
People living in country settings are less likely than their urban peers to be able to quickly and effectively access healthcare services, including mental health counseling. Rural residents may also face a greater degree of social stigma surrounding psychotherapy than youth of the same age living in cities.
"If a rural child is depressed, it's much harder to get state-of-the-art care. And it's especially difficult to receive psychotherapy in a rural area," John Campo, a psychiatry professor at the Wexner Medical Center, said.
Future research will examine the specific causes that could be leading young people in the country to commit suicide more often than their peers in urban areas. Once these are identified, it may be possible to develop new treatment methods specific to rural youth, researchers believe.
Comparison of suicide rates between rural and urban youth was profiled in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
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