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Kansas suicide rate rises dramatically

More than 30% spike in suicides among the findings in 2012 vital statistics report

By Phil Cauthon | October 14, 2013


Kansas Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, 2012

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The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has released the state's 2012 Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, along with a letter from secretary Dr. Robert Moser saying he is "deeply concerned" by the sharp increase in the suicide rate.

Suicides in Kansas increased 31.5 percent in 2012, totaling 505 deaths versus 384 in 2011.

"Our agency is working with other state agencies and private organizations to increase awareness and provide tools and resources towards suicide prevention to more effectively address this issue," Moser wrote in the report's preface.

More than four-fifths of suicides last year were male. The two age groups with the largest number of suicides were ages 45 to 54 (110 deaths) and 25 to 34 (87 deaths). The three most common methods of suicide were firearms (297 deaths), suffocation (113 deaths) and poisoning (69 deaths).

Marcia Epstein — director of Headquarters Counseling Center, a statewide suicide prevention hotline based in Lawrence — said her agency works to raise awareness of the problem and offers free, 24-hour-a-day help for those with suicidal thoughts.

The suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

Marcia Epstein, director of Headquarters Counseling Center, a statewide suicide prevention hotline based in Lawrence.

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"Like Secretary Moser, I feel such sadness for those Kansans lost to suicide, and to the family members and friends whose lives have been changed by those deaths," Epstein said. "Every person can make a difference. The first step in preventing suicide is talking openly, when you are the person struggling with thoughts or attempts of suicide, or when someone you encounter is at risk."

Epstein said it is important for friends and family members to pay attention to warning signs of suicide risk, including when someone:

  • Lets you know that he or she has experienced significant losses
  • Shows that he or she is feeling intense, long-lasting emotional pain
  • Has significant changes in his or her behavior
  • States extremely negative thoughts about himself or herself or his or her life
  • Talks about suicide

She said friends or family should ask someone exhibiting signs: "Are you thinking about suicide?" and then should "listen with care, believing how the person describes his or her life."

Other indicators highlighted

Moser said the new vital statistics report showed that the state had met goals for three indicators on the federal government's Healthy People 2020 initiative: heart disease mortality, AIDS/HIV age-adjusted mortality rate, and pregnancy rate for mothers under age 20.

Other areas of the report highlighted by Moser as "agency priorities" were:

• The total number of Kansas resident deaths was 25,084 in 2012, or 30 fewer than 2011.

• The leading causes of death for all ages remained the same. They were:

  1. Cancer - 5,406
  2. Heart Disease - 5,314
  3. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease - 1,680
  4. Cerebrovascular Disease - 1,331
  5. Unintentional Injuries - 1,304

• The total number of infant deaths in 2012 increased by seven to 254. Kansas' infant mortality rate in last year — 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 — is not a statistically significant increase from 2011.

• Pregnancy-associated maternal deaths dropped from 24 in 2011 to 15 in 2012.

• Tobacco use as reported on the death certificate contributed to almost one out of four deaths (24.5 percent). KDHE reported that is consistent with large-scale epidemiological studies that have estimated tobacco use to account for one in five deaths.

• The number of births in Kansas has begun to rebound. The 40,304 births in 2012 represent a 1.7 percent increase from the 39,628 births in 2011. The birth rate has increased from 13.8 to 14.0. Out-of-wedlock births accounted for 36.7 percent of all births in 2012, down from 37.3 percent in 2011, mirroring a nationwide trend.

• The state’s pregnancy rates for females under 20 was 8.3 percent, or 3,331 mothers.


Every day in 2012, Kansas experienced 110 live births, 21 abortions, 69 deaths, 50 marriages, and 27 marriage dissolutions.

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Indicators not highlighted by KDHE

Among other statistics not highlighted in Moser's introduction:

• About 7 percent of births in 2012 (2,888) were low birth-weight, 5.5 pounds or less.

• Nearly 99 percent of babies born received prenatal care at some point during the pregnancy.

• About 82 percent of babies born received prenatal care that was considered adequate. About 18 percent received less than adequate prenatal care.

• About 14 percent of new mothers reported using tobacco during pregnancy, accounting for 5,494 births in 2012.

• During 2012, there were 195 stillbirths reported for Kansas resident mothers, up from 188 in 2011.

• Nearly 70 percent of babies were born vaginally in 2012. Most vaginal deliveries were “spontaneous,” meaning no mechanical procedures like forceps or vacuum extraction were required. The rest — 30.2 percent — were born by cesarean section.

• There were 3,802 abortions performed for Kansas residents in 2012, of which 3,655 were performed within the state's borders.

• The average age at death was 74.1 years, down from 74.4 in 2011.

• Kansas couples are delaying marriage. The average age of all brides in 2012 was 30.5 years and that of grooms was 32.6 years — both have been rising steadily since 1993, when they were about 29 and 31 years, respectively.

• There were 9,782 marriage dissolutions — 9,530 divorces and 252 annulments — the third year of decline, down 6.3 percent from 2011. Nationwide, marriage dissolutions are on the rise.

• The population density of Kansas was 35.3 people per square mile in 2012. That's a 14.2 percent increase from 30.9 people per square mile in 1993. The most sparsely populated counties were Greeley and Wallace, with a density of 1.7 people per square mile. The most densely populated county was Johnson, with 1,183 people per square mile.

• The median age of Kansans in 2012 was 36.0 years, a 6.5 percent increase from the median age of 33.8 in 1993.

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