Purdue University Graduate School
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Suicide Deaths: Do Socioecological Factors Differ by Rurality

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posted on 2021-07-28, 13:20 authored by William Thomas FelixWilliam Thomas Felix

Objectives The study will assess patterns of known individual, interpersonal, and community-level circumstances leading to suicide to understand how these factors can co-occur. These patterns will help focus on prevention strategies.

Methods Data was collected from the Iowa Violent Death Reporting System, Census data from the American Community Survey, and 2010 rural-urban commuting area codes from the Economic Research Service. The study consisted of three steps. The first step latent class analysis was conducted on data from suicide deaths from Iowa in 2016-2018 to create classes of patterns of circumstances leading to suicide. The second step maximum probability assignment was used to assign the sample of 1,276 to the created latent classes. Finally, in the third step bivariate regressions were ran to understand the relationship between the created latent classes and the rurality variable (nonmetropolitan vs metropolitan).

Results Five latent classes of distinct patterns of suicide factors emerged. Class 1 is physical health problems living in areas that are average on all community-level variables. This class 1 is seen to happen with higher odds in nonmetropolitan areas. Class 2 is interpersonal problems in areas where living alone is high. This class 2 happened with higher odds in nonmetropolitan areas. Class 3 is mental health problems or depressed mood with no legal problems in areas that had lower educational attainment. This class 3 did not indicate greater odds based on rurality. Class 4 is history of mental health treatment in well-off areas. This class 4 was seen to happen with higher odds in metropolitan areas. Class 5 is substance abuse problems in poorer areas. This class 5 did not indicate greater odds based on rurality. All the classes shared a common theme of experiencing mental health issues or being in a depressed mood.

Conclusions Suicide is a complex concern that could be classified into several classes that have distinct patterns of suicide factors. These classes and patterns help with identifying what services and interventions are needed in certain communities. Overall, providing support in regards to mental health as well as intervening in childhood to support positive development may provide substantial mitigation to the odds of committing suicide. In investigating these patterns, future prevention and intervention effort can take into consideration these patterns to tailor to the individual and the environments where they live.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Health and Kinesiology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Laura Schwab Reese

Additional Committee Member 2

Monica Kasting

Additional Committee Member 3

Trent Mize

Additional Committee Member 4

Corinne Peek-Asa