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Understanding Geographic and Neighborhood Variations in Overdose Death Rates (2018)

Authors: Jascha Wagner, Logan Neitzke-Spruill, Daniel O'Connell, James Highberger, Steve S. Martin,  Rebecca Walker, & Tammy Anderson

Abstract: The current opioid epidemic continues to challenge us in new and potentially troubling ways. For example, research today finds more overdose deaths occurring in rural, rather than urban, geographic areas. Yet, studies have often ignored heterogeneities within these spaces and the neighborhood variations therein. Using geodemographic classification, we investigate neighborhood differences in overdose death rates by geographical areas to further understand where and among what groups the problem might be most concentrated. For deaths between 2013 and 2016, we find significant variation in rates among neighborhoods, defined by their socio-economic and demographic characteristics. For example, overdose death rates vary up to 13-fold among neighborhoods within geographic areas. Our results overall show that while the rural or urban classification of a geographic area is important in understanding the current overdose problem, a more segmented analysis by neighborhood’s socio-economic and demographic makeup is also necessary.

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