Racial-Ethnic Differences in Receipt of Past-Year Health Care Services Among Suicide Decedents: A Case-Control Study

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Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)


OBJECTIVE: Suicide remains an urgent public health crisis. Although some sociodemographic characteristics are associated with greater suicide risk in the general population, it is unclear whether individuals utilizing health care in the United States have similar suicide incidence patterns. The authors examined whether race-ethnicity is associated with suicide death among patients seeking health care and investigated health care utilization patterns.

METHODS: Data were collected from electronic health records and government mortality records for patients seeking health care across nine health care systems in the United States. Patients who died by suicide (N=1,935) were matched with patients in a control group (N=19,350) within each health care system.

RESULTS: Patients who died by suicide were significantly more likely to be White, older, male, living in low-education areas, living in rural areas, or diagnosed as having mental health conditions or were significantly less likely to have commercial insurance (p<0.05). Among most racial-ethnic groups, those who died by suicide had a higher number of past-year mental health, primary care, and total health care visits; for American Indian/Alaska Native patients, the number of health care visits tended to be lower among suicide decedents.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that higher past-year health care utilization was associated with increased likelihood of suicide death across several racial-ethnic groups. This observation underscores the need for identifying and managing suicide risk in health care settings, including outside of mental health visits, among most racial-ethnic groups.

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ePub ahead of print