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🔢 Key Takeaways

  1. Despite homicide receiving more attention, suicide is actually a bigger issue in the US. The high suicide rate in Las Vegas calls for more investigation into the factors that make the city a "suicide-ogenic" environment.
  2. Living or visiting Las Vegas can increase the risk of suicide. Leaving the city can lower the risk, as chronic exposure plays a significant factor. It's important to recognize the potential influence of location on suicide rates.
  3. Las Vegas' high suicide rate is due to various factors, including lack of resources and a culture of individualism fueled by the city's branding as a place of vice and exploration. Seek help and support if needed.
  4. Suicide is a major problem that is often overlooked due to a focus on homicide and a lack of understanding of cultural and societal values. A scientific approach is necessary to address and prevent suicide.
  5. Place of residence can impact your risk of suicide or heart attack. Hungary and Las Vegas have high suicide rates, while New York residents have a higher risk of heart attack. Consider this when choosing where to live or visit.

📝 Podcast Notes

The Sociology of Suicide: Investigating Why Las Vegas Has the Highest Suicide Rate in the US

Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University, studies the sociology of race and ethnicity, cultural sociology, and medical sociology. He is interested in those who lose out on societal gains and opportunities, and studies suicide rates in the Western United States. His research shows that more people in the U.S. die from suicide than from homicide. Las Vegas has the highest suicide rate of any large city in the United States, with a rate twice the national average. Despite suicide not being a major issue in the U.S., the high suicide rate in Las Vegas shows that something about the city is 'suicide-ogenic' and requires further investigation.

The Effect of Living in Las Vegas on Suicide Risk

Living or staying in Las Vegas increases the likelihood of suicide by 60% compared to residents elsewhere in the US. Visitors to Las Vegas have a 100% increase in suicide risk compared to those who stay home. However, if residents of Las Vegas leave, their risk of suicide goes down by 20%. Chronic exposure to Las Vegas is the major factor for suicide rather than people bringing suicide risk with them. This study suggests that if someone is feeling suicidal, leaving Las Vegas can be beneficial. While the overall risk is still small, it is important to recognize the potential influence of place on suicide rates.

Understanding Las Vegas' High Suicide Rate

Las Vegas has nearly double the national suicide rate due to a combination of factors, including a lack of governmental resources, high rates of drug and alcohol use, the gambling culture, and a 'frontier culture' mentality among residents and visitors. This mentality, fueled by the city's self-branding as a place of total license and exploration of vice, creates a Libertarian ethos that values individualism over seeking help. While the actual number of suicides in Las Vegas is relatively small, the city's culture of acceptance and tolerance of immorality and vice may contribute to its higher suicide rate compared to other cities.

Understanding Culture and Values in Suicide Prevention

Understanding the culture and values underlying people's behavioral sets can provide explanatory power. Suicide is both over-examined and ignored in our society, resulting in an under-the-radar problem. Despite suicide being responsible for more deaths than murder, we are more focused on homicide due to the need for justice and retribution. This look-but-don't-see relationship with suicide is concerning. It's important to address suicide as a significant societal problem, and not just a hot-button issue in pop culture. Scholars, public health officials, and individuals alike need to examine suicide in an unbiased, scientific way in order to better understand and prevent it.

The Relationship Between Place and Mortality: Suicide and Heart Attack Risk

Suicide is often not mobilizing for people because it is seen as deeply saddening and grim, which is different from homicide or accidents. Hungary has a high suicide rate but the reason is unknown. New York has a relatively low suicide rate compared to Las Vegas, but residents have a higher risk of heart attack. This highlights the relationship between place and mortality. The risk of heart attack for visitors to New York goes up by 6%, and residents have a 12% greater risk than elsewhere in the US. If suicide is a concern, it may be best to avoid Las Vegas and Hungary.