Document Type

Capstone Experience

Graduation Date


Degree Name

Master of Public Health



First Committee Member

Keith Hansen

Second Committee Member

Leslie Scofield

Third Committee Member

Kristina Kintziger


Background: Suicide rates in the United States have been on the rise in recent years. As of 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the country. Climate change has also contributed to an increase in tornadoes. Studies have found that experiencing a natural disaster is associated with an increase in suicide rates. Studies examining suicide rates and tornadoes, specifically, are virtually nonexistent.

Methods: The exposure groups were those living in three different tornado-affected regions. The comparison group consisted of those living in the larger geographical region. Mortality data was obtained from the CDC, tornado-related data was collected from FEMA, and additional covariates were obtained from FEMA’s National Risk Index. Stratified time trends and Chi-square analyses were used to determine whether there is a relationship between experiencing a tornado and increased suicide rates.

Results: Time trends showed that nearly every group examined experienced an increase in suicide rates during the year that the tornadoes occurred. Chi-square analyses found that there is a relationship between year and gender, as well as year and race, among those who died by suicide. There are also associations between several Risk Index measures and race and urbanization status.

Conclusion: Based on the time trends, it can be tentatively concluded that experiencing a tornado is associated with an increase in suicide. However, the significant Chi-square results may be due to other factors and future research is needed to conclusively state that there is a relationship between suicide and tornadoes.

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