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Las Vegas has higher suicide risk

Nov. 12, 2008 at 1:24 AM   |   Comments

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PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Las Vegas seems to attract suicidal people or bring out people's desire to kill themselves, researchers have found.

Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia and Harvard University in Boston said Vegas residents face a suicide risk significantly higher than other Americans and visitors to the gambling mecca face an even higher risk.

Matt Wray of Temple and colleagues from Harvard analyzed the patterns of suicide in Las Vegas over a 30-year period.

The study, published in Social Science and Medicine, found: Vegas residents face a suicide risk significantly higher than residents elsewhere in the United States; people who die while visiting Las Vegas are twice as likely to die by suicide than people who visit elsewhere; and visitors to Las Vegas face an even higher suicide risk than residents of Las Vegas.

More research is needed to determine the reasons behind the geographical suicide cluster, but Wray said one explanation could be "gambler's despair," described as when a person visits Las Vegas, bets his house, loses and decides to end it all.

Another explanation would be that those predisposed to suicide disproportionately choose Las Vegas to reside in or visit, or there be may be a "contagion" effect where people are emulating the suicides of others, or Las Vegas acting as a suicide magnet, Wray said.

Wray said beyond gambling, Las Vegas's growth spurt "may amplify social isolation, fragmentation and low social cohesion, all of which have long been identified as correlates of suicide."

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