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Urban-Rural Differences in Suicide Rates and Leading Means in Kansas (September 2021)

By Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., Linda J. Sheppard, J.D., Wen-Chieh Lin, Ph.D. | September 10, 2021

Urban-Rural Differences in Suicide Rates and Leading Means in Kansas (September 2021)

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Suicide rates have been increasing. In 2019, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death in Kansas and the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In both Kansas and the U.S., discharge of firearms has been the leading means of suicide. 

While rising suicide rates across the nation have drawn attention, urban-rural differences also have been noticed. Rural areas have experienced a higher suicide rate than urban areas, regardless of age, sex, race or ethnicity. 

This issue brief highlights how suicide rates and the means of suicide have changed over time and have varied across Kansas, with a close look at differences by rurality. 

Key points from the brief include:

  • The suicide rate in Kansas was nearly 1.5 times higher in 2015-2019 than in 2000-2004 (18.1 compared to 12.5 per 100,000), and in 2019 was the 16th highest in the country.
  • The suicide rate increased gradually starting in 2000, then picked up pace between 2007-2011.
  • While Kansas counties of all population densities saw an increase in suicide rates over the past 20 years, the increase in Frontier and Rural counties outpaced that in Densely-Settled Rural, Semi-Urban and Urban counties (54.7 and 59.4 percent increases compared to 43.2, 40.3 and 45.4 percent increases, respectively).
  • Since 2011-2015, the rate of suicide by discharge of firearms in Frontier counties has been significantly higher than other county groups.
  • In 2015-2019, two-thirds (66.8 percent) of suicides in Frontier counties occurred by discharge of firearms (15.3 out of 22.9 per 100,000).

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.