Response to Economic Shock: The Impact of Recession on Rural–Urban Suicides in the U.S. 

Carriere, Danielle; Marshall, Maria; and James Binkley (2018). The Journal of Rural Health


Both rural and urban suicides have steadily been creeping upward over the past two decades. However, the gap between rural and urban suicide rates has increased over time. In fact, from 2002–2016, the gap between rural and urban suicide rates increased from about 4 suicides per 100,000 to about 10 suicides per 100,000.

Many researchers have studied rural and urban suicide rates, as well as the effect of various economic factors on suicide rates and mental health. However, there is little understanding of how rurality and the economy interact to affect suicides. This paper uses national mortality data to examine county-level suicides in rural and urban counties from 2002–2016, and to study how the Great Recession of 2007–2009 affected the gap between rural and urban suicides.

The findings of this paper indicated that, even after population differences are accounted for, urban areas generally experience higher levels of female suicides than rural areas. However, urban areas experience smaller increases in female suicides during periods of recession. While female suicides appear to have a stronger relationship to short-term economic crises, long-term economic conditions such as persistently high unemployment or poverty have a stronger relationship with male suicides. These rather different effects may be representative of a shift in male and female suicide trends.