Year: 2020 Source: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. (2020). Published 7 November 2020. https://doi.o10.1007/s00127-020-01978-7 SIEC No: 20200964

There are notable geographic variations in incidence rates of suicide both in Japan and globally. Previous studies have found that rurality/urbanity shapes intra-regional differences in suicide mortality, and suicide risk associated with rurality can vary significantly by gender and age. This study aimed to examine spatial patterning of and rural–urban differences in suicide mortality by gender and age group across 1887 municipalities in Japan between 2009 and 2017.

Suicide data were obtained from suicide statistics of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan. We estimated smoothed standardized mortality ratios for suicide for each of the municipalities and investigated associations with level of rurality/urbanity using Bayesian hierarchical models before and after adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics.

The results of the multivariate analyses showed that, for males aged 0–39 and 40–59 years, rural residents tended to have a higher suicide risk compared to urban ones. For males aged 60+ years, a distinct rural–urban gradient in suicide risk was not observed. For females aged 0–39 years, a significant association between suicide risk and rurality was not observed, while for females aged 40–59 years and females aged 60 years or above, the association was a U-shaped curve.

Our results showed that geographical distribution of and rural–urban differences in suicide mortality in Japan differed substantially by gender and age. These findings suggest that it is important to take demographic factors into consideration when municipalities allocate resources for suicide prevention.