Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What Happens In Vegas? Place As A Risk Factor For Suicide

Date:
November 12, 2008
Source:
Temple University
Summary:
The vast majority of recent studies on suicide have focused on identifying psychiatric risk factors. However, a new study in Social Science and Medicine, explores time and place as factors in suicide by closely analyzing the patterns of suicide in a single geographic area, Las Vegas, over a 30 year period.

Every day 85 Americans die by suicide and hundreds of thousands more make attempts every year. The vast majority of recent studies on suicide have focused on identifying psychiatric risk factors. However, a new study by Temple University Sociology Professor Matt Wray explores time and place as factors in suicide by closely analyzing the patterns of suicide in a single geographic area—Las Vegas—over a 30 year period.

Related Articles


Wray and his colleagues from Harvard University set out to determine whether or not there was hard data to support the anecdotal evidence that the risk of suicide in Las Vegas is higher than elsewhere in the country. To do so, Wray compared statistical patterns of suicide in Las Vegas to the rest of the nation.

The results showed:

  • residents of Las Vegas face a suicide risk that is significantly higher than the risk faced by residents elsewhere
  • people who die while visiting Las Vegas are twice as likely to die by suicide than are people who die visiting someplace else
  • visitors to Las Vegas face an even higher suicide risk than residents of Las Vegas

Also noteworthy, according to Wray, is the finding that if you live in Las Vegas, but travel away from home, your risk for suicide decreases. "So, one conclusion we might draw from this fact is that something about the place is toxic or 'suicidogenic,' and that there is something about reduced exposure to Las Vegas that is beneficial," said Wray.

According to Wray, there a couple of scenarios that may explain the reasons for this geographical suicide cluster, but these need further research. "One would be 'gambler's despair'—someone visits Las Vegas, bets his house away and decides to end it all. Another would be that those predisposed to suicide disproportionately choose Las Vegas to reside in or visit. And, finally, there may be a 'contagion' effect where people are emulating the suicides of others, with Las Vegas acting as a suicide magnet, much like the Golden Gate bridge. Some people may be going there intent on self-destruction."

What about Las Vegas as a place may be contributing to these higher rates of suicide? Problem gambling is just one piece of the puzzle, explained Wray. "Las Vegas is also one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the U.S., a pattern of growth that may amplify social isolation, fragmentation and low social cohesion, all of which have long been identified as correlates of suicide," he said.

The study also found that suicide risk in Las Vegas has declined over the 30 year period in the study, while the risks in the rest of the country have begun to climb slightly. Additionally, the data showed that for residents, the protective benefit of leaving Las Vegas, while still significant, has begun to decline.

In response to these findings, some would argue that Las Vegas is becoming more like the All-American city, having become a very normal place to live in and finally making good on older marketing campaigns that have depicted it as a family-oriented vacation destination. "But, it is equally possible that the converse is true," said Wray.

"Maybe it's actually a sign that the rest of the country is becoming more like Las Vegas—with increased social isolation, sprawling growth, and casino-style gambling now in every state and many metropolitan regions," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Temple University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Leaving Las Vegas: Exposure to Las Vegas and Risk of Suicide. Social Science and Medicine, November 2008

Cite This Page:

Temple University. "What Happens In Vegas? Place As A Risk Factor For Suicide." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111130839.htm>.
Temple University. (2008, November 12). What Happens In Vegas? Place As A Risk Factor For Suicide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111130839.htm
Temple University. "What Happens In Vegas? Place As A Risk Factor For Suicide." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111130839.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins