Differences in U.S. Suicide Rates by Educational Attainment, 2000-2014

Am J Prev Med. 2017 Oct;53(4):e123-e130. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.04.010. Epub 2017 Jul 27.


Introduction: The purpose of this study was to document the association between education and suicide risk, in light of rising suicide rates and socioeconomic differentials in mortality in the U.S.

Methods: Differentials and trends in U.S. suicide rates by education were examined from 2000 to 2014 using death certificate data on 442,135 suicides from the National Center for Health Statistics and Census data. Differences in the circumstances and characteristics of suicide deaths by education were investigated using 2013 data from the National Violent Death Reporting System for nine states. Analyses were conducted in 2016.

Results: Between 2000 and 2014, men and women aged ≥25 years with at least a college degree exhibited the lowest suicide rates; those with a high school degree displayed the highest rates. Men with a high school education were twice as likely to die by suicide compared with those with a college degree in 2014. The education gradient in suicide mortality generally remained constant over the study period. Interpersonal/relationship problems and substance abuse were more common circumstances for less educated decedents. Mental health issues and job problems were more prevalent among college-educated decedents.

Conclusions: The findings highlight the importance of social determinants in suicide risk, with important prevention implications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States