Objectives: The answer to the question whether suicide rates are higher in urban than in rural areas may have changed over the years. This study analyzes the longitudinal trends of rural and urban suicides in Austria from 1970 to 2005. The most recent decade, 1995-2005 was also investigated cross-sectionally in terms of age groups, gender, suicide methods and family status.
Methods: Official suicide statistics were calculated in a Poisson regression model to determine trends in suicide rates according to gender in rural and urban regions as well as the ratios of rural- to urban-suicide rates. Population density levels were used as a measure of urbanization. Differences in suicide rates across the rural-urban categories were investigated in terms of genders, age groups, suicide methods and family status using Spearman correlations.
Results: The ratio of rural to urban suicide rates has continuously increased in both genders over the past 35 years, indicating a growing risk in rural areas. Suicide methods used in rural and urban areas vary significantly and suicide rates among men, but not women, were found to decrease with increasing urbanicity.
Conclusion: In line with recent findings from other western countries, we showed a growing gap between rural and urban suicide rates. This suggests a need for rural-specific suicide prevention efforts, especially aimed at the male rural population.