Learn more about how RWJF Health & Society Scholar Jason Houle worked to solve the riddle of the U.S. "suicide belt." Read the story
Data from 2009 show the highest rate of suicide in Montana being 3.5 times greater than the lowest rate of suicide in New Jersey. Since the 19th century, the pattern of regional suicide rates has been highest in the West.
Using data from the 2000 U.S. Census, two measures were standardized and summed to gather data on residential stability: (1) percentage change in number of households between 1990 and 2000, and (2) the percentage of the population over the age of five who lived in the same house a year earlier. A Census measure of population per square mile was used to measure population density. The dependent variable was state suicide rates.
Areas of high population turnover are said to also have weakened social ties and lower social integration, where marriage and religion are thus affected. The role that residential stability plays is an important piece to this centuries-old puzzle.