This section presents some illustrative findings from the 23 tables which follow. When possible, U.S. data as well as data for other states are presented in order to provide a comparative context for Arizona suicide mortality statistics.
The Arizona age-adjusted suicide motality rate decreased for the second consecutive year from 20.0 suicides/100,000 persons in 1994 to 19.5/100,000 in 1995, and 16.3/100,000 in 1996. The latter was the second lowest rate of the eleven-year period 1986-1996.
The 1996 Arizona suicide death rate was 51 percent higher than the national rate, and 55 percent higher than the year 2000 national health objective of 10.5 suicides/100,000 population.
Both in 1996 and 1995, the average age at death from suicide was 43.9 years (Table 1, Table 6). Compared to non-Hispanic whites, on average Blacks were 18.3 years younger at the time of suicide death, American Indian were 16.1 years younger, while Hispanics were 14.6 years younger. (Table 6). The majority (427 out of 615 or 69.4 percent) of white non-Hispanic suicide victims in 1996 were at least 35 years old. In contrast, only 23.1 percent of suicides among Blacks, 26.2 percent of suicides among American Indians, and 34.9 percent of suicides among Hispanics were at least this old.
In each year from 1986 to 1993, the suicide rate among elderly persons (65 years and older) was the highest among all age groups in Arizona (Table 1). In 1996, the highest suicide rate was among Arizonans 35-44 years old (Table 1).
All of the age groups showed an improved suicide mortality picture in Arizona between 1995 and 1996. The largest annual declines in suicide mortality rates (Table 1) were seen among Arizonans 25-34 years old (25.7 percent lower suicide rate), persons 55-64 years old (-24.8 percent), elderly 65+ (-19.7 percent) and Arizonans 35-44 years old (-18.7 percent). Suicide rates for persons 55-64 years of age, as well as among elderly 65 years and older were in fact the lowest rates of the 1986-1996 period.
Gender-specific age-adjusted suicide mortality rates indicate that men are more likely than women to commit suicide (Table 8). The 1996 male suicide rate (27.8/100,000) was 4.4 times greater than the corresponding female rate (6.4/100,000). Approximately 8 out of every ten suicide victims (81.2 percent) in 1996 were males.
From 1986 to 1996, the annual suicide rates were at least 17 percent higher in Yavapai County than the corresponding rate for the entire state (Table 9). The annual number of suicides and suicide rates for several counties with small populations (Graham, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz and Santa Cruz) varied considerably from year to year (Table 10).
Graham, Mohave, and Navajo counties had the highest suicide death rates among 15-19 year olds in 1996 (Table 12).
Pinal, Yuma and Coconino counties had the highest suicide mortality rates among the elderly 65 and older in 1996 (Table 12).
The 1996 age-adjusted suicide mortality rates for American Indian and non-Hispanic white residents of Arizona were at least 67 percent higher than the year 2000 national health objective of 10.5 suicides per 100,000 population (Figure 5, Table 20). In contrast, the 1996 suicide mortality rate among Blacks was 20 percent lower, and among Asians 40 percent lower than the objective.
Married Arizonans clearly were the least likely to end their own lives compared to Arizonans in other marital statuses (Figure 6, Table 15). Marital disruption in the form of divorce or death of a spouse was a factor that increased the risk of committing suicide. A widowed person was 1.95 times and a divorced person 2.9 times more likely to end his/her own life than a married Arizonan.
Among all age groups, firearms accounted for 66.6 percent of suicide deaths in 1996 (Table 20). Male suicides used firearms more frequently (71.5 percent) than female suicides (48.7 percent, Table 17). American Indian suicide victims were almost equally likely to die from hanging or strangulation (40.5 percent), or to use firearms (45.2 percent, Table 20).
The use of firearms accounted for the majority of the increase in youthful suicides.* The 1996 firearm suicide rate for Arizonans aged 15 to 19 was 4.1 times greater (14.6/100,000) than the rate of non-firearm suicides (3.6/100,000) Between 1986 and 1996, the annual suicide rates for this age group by all methods other than firerams have not exceeded 7.1/100,000 (Figure 7).
The proportion of suicides which occurred each month in 1996 varied from 4.5 to 10.1 percent (Table 11). The highest proportions of suicides occurred in January, July and September, while the lowest monthly proportions occurred in December and October.
The average annual suicide mortality rate in the 1984-1996 period was 1.8 times higher for non-native (22.3 per 100,000) than native born Arizonans**(12.2 per 100,000, Figure 8, Table 23). Non-natives were particularly overrepresented among elderly suicides (95 percent of suicides among Arizonans 65 years and older). The suicide rate for non-native elderly (30.8) was 1.8 times higher than the rate of 17.3 among their Arizona-born peers. Interestingly, the rate of suicide deaths among Arizona-born elderly was lower than the national suicide rates among elderly 65 years and older (Table 1).
In 1995***, the age-adjusted suicide mortality rates ranged from 7.0/100,000 in the District of Columbia to 25.8/100,000 in Nevada. Arizona ranked third highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in its suicide mortality rate (Figure 9, Table 2).
In Arizona, the age-adjusted suicide death rates varied in 1996 from 8.4/100,000 among Santa Cruz county residents, to 36.1 suicides per 100,000 residents of Gila County (Figure 10).
*For more details see Table 15 in: Christopher K. Mrela, Firearm-Related Fatalities, Arizona, 1986-1996. Phoenix: Arizona Department of Health Services, March 1998.
** For comparative statistics and discussion see J.C. Gersten, F. Teitelbaum, C. Chapin. Suicide in Arizona. Research Notes. Vol. 2. No.1. Phoenix: Arizona Department of Health Services, June 1986. See also Christopher K. Mrela. Suicide Mortality, Arizona, 1983-1993. Phoenix: Arizona Department of Health Services, March 1995; Suicide Mortality, Arizona 1984-1994, Phoenix: Arizona Department of Health Services, February 1996; Suicide Mortality, Arizona, 1985-1995. Phoenix: Arizona Department of Health Services, February 1997.
***The latest year for which the suicide mortality rates are available by State.
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