Characteristics of Black and White Suicide Decedents in Fulton County, Georgia, 1988-2002

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Characteristics of Black and White Suicide Decedents in Fulton County, Georgia, 1988-2002

Category: Suicide|Journal: American Journal of Public Health (full text)|Author: K Abe, K Mertz, K Powell, R Hanzlick|Year: 2008

Objectives

We compared the prevalence of risk factors for Black and White suicide decedents in Fulton County, Georgia, from 1988–2002.

 

Methods

We used data from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office to compile information on suicides that occurred in Fulton County between 1988 and 2002. We used the χ2 test and logistic regression to identify associations between suicide risk factors and race.

 

Results

Black suicide decedents were more likely than White suicide decedents to be male (odds ratio [OR]=2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.38, 3.09), to be younger, (≥24 y [OR = 4.74; 95% CI = 2.88, 7.81]; 25–34 y [OR = 2.79; 95% CI = 1.74, 4.47]; 35–44 y [OR = 1.86; 95% CI = 1.13, 3.07]), and to hurt others in a suicide (OR = 4.22; 95% CI = 1.60, 11.15) but less likely to report depression (OR=0.63; 95% CI=0.48, 0.83), to have a family history of suicide (OR=0.08; 95% CI=0.01, 0.61), or to leave a suicide note (OR=0.37; 95% CI=0.26, 0.52).

 

Conclusions

Future research should consider that Black suicide decedents are less likely to report depression than White suicide decedents. This suicide risk difference is important when developing effective suicide prevention programs.

 

Between 2001 and 2002, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 30000 fatalities per year.13 Because suicide rates are higher among Whites than among Blacks, research on suicide risk factors has primarily been focused on White decedents.1,4,5 However, suicide among Blacks is an important problem. Suicides among young Blacks has been increasing.69 Among Blacks aged 15–24 years in the United States, the age-specific suicide rates were 49% higher in 1995 than in 1981 (10 vs 6.7 per 100 000), whereas the rate for Whites in the same age group was 5% higher (13.7 vs 13.1 per 100 000).10 With a substantial proportion of the Black population aged younger than 24 years, the high suicide rates affecting the younger generation might have future repercussions for the Black population, both economically and sociologically.1112

The recent rise in suicide rates among young Blacks has prompted researchers to reevaluate whether risk factors among White suicide decedents are relevant predictors of suicides among Blacks. Studies have identified several suicide risk factors among Blacks. These factors include male gender,1,68,11 young age,1,69 mental health service use,13 substance abuse,14,15 firearm availability,8,14,16 geographic residence (i.e., Northeast),9,11,14 higher economic status,17 and threatening behavior toward others.14,18 These risk factors also apply to Whites, with the exception of young age, geographic residence, and higher economic status.1,6,7,13 For Blacks, however, these findings are from a limited number of studies that are often hindered by small sample sizes.1,6,7,14

The substantial proportion of Blacks in the Fulton County, Georgia, population provides an opportunity to study differences between Black and White suicide decedents. In 2000, a total of 12% of the US population was Black and 75% was White. In Fulton County, Georgia, 45% of the population was Black and 48% of the population was White.19 The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office (FCMEO) collects demographic information on all persons who commit suicide in Fulton County, as well as information on the circumstances surrounding the suicides. Our examination of the FCMEO database to identify characteristics of suicide associated with race between 1988 and 2002 makes this study one of the largest population-based studies of Black and White suicide decedents.

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