Adult Suicide Mortality in the United States: Marital Status, Family Size, Socioeconomic Status, and Differences by Sex


  • *Direct correspondence to Justin T. Denney, Population Program, Campus Box 484, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0484 〈〉. The authors agree to share coding information to those wishing to replicate the study. The data are available from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The authors thank the University of Colorado Population Center (NICHD R21 HD51146) and the University of Texas Population Research Center (NICHD R24 HD42849) for administrative and computing support, the NCHS for collecting the data, and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


Objective. This article addresses the relationship between suicide mortality and family structure and socioeconomic status for U.S. adult men and women.

Methods. We use Cox proportional hazard models and individual-level, prospective data from the National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality File (1986–2002) to examine adult suicide mortality.

Results. Larger families and employment are associated with lower risks of suicide for both men and women. Low levels of education or being divorced or separated, widowed, or never married are associated with increased risks of suicide among men, but not among women.

Conclusions. We find important sex differences in the relationship between suicide mortality and marital status and education. Future suicide research should use both aggregate and individual-level data and recognize important sex differences in the relationship between risk factors and suicide mortality—a central cause of preventable death in the United States.