Suicide-How Does Your State Compare

Washington State has been undergoing an outcomes-based,
health systems improvement plan and a health outcomes scorecard is part of that
process. While perusing the most recent health scores for the 2016 calendar
year, I was astounded to learn that Washington has a much higher suicide rate which
is 16 persons per 100,000 compared to the national average of 13 per 100,000. (Department of
Health, 2018)

In other words, there are 20% more suicides in Washington based on a population
rate, than the average rate for the United States. Even more disturbing is the
rate of suicide is increasing in Washington. This astounded me, so I reviewed national
data from the Centers for Disease Control and here are the findings from the
2015 survey. (National Center for Health Statistics, 2018)

States posting the highest suicide rates per 100,000 lives
were cold and sparsely populated outposts:

  1. 28.0-Wyoming
  2. 26.9-Alaska
  3. 25.3-Montana

States with the Lowest Suicide Rates per 100,000 lives were
all on the east coast, which is a densely populated region with good health
care access.

  1. 7.2-New Jersey
  2. 8.0-New York
  3. 8.8-Massachusetts

1    Despite all of the news coverage on murders, suicides
outnumber murder in the U.S. two to one. It is estimated that there are 45
attempts for every suicide. A 2002 Harvard study of all fifty states found that
where there are higher levels of gun ownership, suicide rates are higher. (Kiewra, 2008) For example, Wyoming
has a 63% rate of gun ownership and the highest suicide rate in the country.

Comparing the U.S.’s Statewide Bipolarity of Suicide Rates to the World
Suicide is a global problem and though it is higher among
poverty-stricken countries, even wealthy European nations have high suicide
rates. In fact, the seat of the European Union, Belgium, has one of the highest
rates of suicide in the world, with 20.5 deaths by suicide out of 100,000 in
2015. (World Health Organization, 2017) Eastern Europe led the
pack for suicides, with Lithuanians doing the deed at a rate of 32.7 out of
100,000. In fact, Europeans collectively had the highest suicide rate in the
world in 2015, according to the World Health survey. Even the beautiful country
of France had a markedly higher suicide rate than the U.S. with 16.9 deaths per
100,000 people.
The highest suicide rate in the world in 2015 was in Sri
Lanka with 35.1 deaths per 100,000, equal to the rate of deforestation of their
tropical rain forests(49% loss of forests by 2005). Belgium was only in 2nd place, followed
closely by Koreans at 32 deaths per 100,00 souls.
In the Americas, the U.S.A. ranked 6th for its
overall suicide rate in 2015, with 14.3 suicides per 100,000 people. The worst
suicide rate in the Americas was Guyana, with 29 self-inflicted deaths per 100K,
followed by Surinam at 26.6, and Bolivia at 18.7. But even Cubans have a robust
suicide rate of 14.1 deaths per 100,000. Amazingly, Canadians, the well-mannered
neighbor to the north with national healthcare has a high suicide rate at 12.3
deaths per 100,000.
 In the Pacific, New
Zealanders, in the dreamscape without predators, scored a relatively high rate
of suicide as well, with 12.6 deaths per 100,000.

Good News

Now for the good news potential retirees, the least suicidal
place in the world in 2015 was Barbados at  .40 or less than one half of a person per
100,000 very content souls. Brunei was next at 1.3 lives, followed by Jamaica
at 1.4 lives lost to suicide per 100,000 happy folks.
Information on Which
to Act
Given the prevalence of suicide, which occurs in both our
youth and people in the prime of their earnings years (the Washington survey
revealed that males aged 45-55 had the highest rate of suicide) this is a
public health crisis. The most popular suicide method is a gun, causing 51% of
the deaths. In a recently published study, examining 32 years of firearm
ownership in households and suicide data across all fifty states these were the
conclusions: (Michael Siegel)
  • ·        
    State levels of firearm ownership were
    associated with increased levels of firearm related suicide among males and
  • ·        
    Higher levels of gun ownership were associated
    with increased rates of suicide by any means for males

Whites were found to have the highest suicide rates,
followed by American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Blacks. Speaking to
gender, girls attempted suicide twice as often as boys, with Hispanic girls
posting a 15.1% suicide rate, compared to 6.8% for White females. Further
examination of methods to reduce this disturbing phenomenon is merited, but in
the short term here are resources for those in need.
Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center created a campaign to
reduce suicide called Means Matter,
which educates the public to keep guns out of the hands of the vulnerable and
youth. Reducing
access to guns can reduce suicide in the depressed. Other initiatives to reduce
suicides in the U.S. include:
National Institute for Mental Health has a suicide
hotline-800-273-TALK (2735)
This is the healthpolicymaven signing off wishing you fully
informed consent and a more positive outlook. The healthpolicymaven is a
trademark, continuously in use since 2007, owned by Roberta E. Winter, a
freelance journalist and healthcare analyst. Winter is the author of a consumer’s
guidebook to the U.S. healthcare system,


Department of Health, W. S. (2018). Washington
State Public Health Survey 2016 Results.
Washington State Department of
Health. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from
Kiewra, K. (2008). Guns and Suicide: A Fatal Link.
Retrieved March 11, 2018, from
Michael Siegel, M. M. (n.d.). Firearm Ownership and
Suicide Rates Among US Men and Women, 1981–2013. 106(7)(July 2016).
National Center for Health Statistics. (2018). Suicide
Mortality By State.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Department of
Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved March 11,
2018, from
World Health Organization. (2017). Suicide
Mortality Rates in 2015.
World Health Organization . World Health
Organization. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from

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