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Suicide risk factors, suicide rate, suicide cartoonAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability and infirmity worldwide. Source.

World Suicide Rate graphEveryone has usually heard at some point in their lives that one country has the highest suicide rate in Europe or the world. Most people think it is either Finland or Japan. In fact, the Innu people in Canada’s northeastern regions have the highest suicide rate in the world: 178 per 100,000 persons per year. To put this into perspective, Finland has an equivalent suicide rate of 31.7 per 100,000 and Japan 35.6 / 100,000.

Statisitics reveal that, yes, some cultures are more prone to suicide than others. I find this idea morbidly intruiging. Why? Because it means that people can be prone to “losing hope” when placed in different environments. And since cultures are not static but dynamic entities, the implication is that the rate of depression could change in the future. It is my firm belief that NONE of us are completely immune.

The suicide rate immediately following the 1929 stock market crash (October 24th -29th) does not appear to have altered significantly. However, there does appears to be a surge in the suicide rate starting around three months after the onset of the initial stock market crash. That three month delay is the time required for the onset of this condition.

Consider the following information:

Overall, the total population three-year moving average suicide rate peaked in 1927–1929 (18.5 deaths per 100,000 population). After that point, the suicide rate dropped and then stabilised, with slight fluctuations, until 1971–1973 (10.2 deaths per 100,000 population). After 1971–1973, the suicide rate increased again, reaching another peak in 1996–1998 (16.7 deaths per 100,000 population). After this point, the suicide rate declined up until the most recent period, 2001–2003 (14.2 deaths per 100,000 population) by 15.0 percent.

These dates appear to be consistent with the 1929 stock market crash, the 70’s oil crisis, and more recently the dot-com crash. I’m predicting that before the end of this year (2008), the suicide rate will rise again considerably, due in part to the September 2008 global financial crisis.

The majority of my readers are Americans, so I’ve decided to quote some pertinent statistics gathered by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States of America:

  • There are 89 suicides per day in America. This is equivalent to a suicide rate of 11.05 per 100,000 population.
  • Among young adults ages 15-24 years old, there is 1 suicide for every 100-200 attempts.
  • Males take their own lives at nearly 4 times the rate of females.
  • Among the general population, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds and the 3rd leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. 
  • Suicide rates among American Indian / Alsaskan Native adolescents and young adults ages 15 – 34 are 1.9 times higher than the national average for that age group.
  • Hispanic female high school students in grades 9-12 reported a higher percentage of suicide attempts (14.9%) than their White non-Hispanic (9.3%) or Black, non-Hispanic (9.8%) counterparts.

I wonder what the possible contributing factors are towards a culture’s suicide rate?

  • A cultural bias towards different stress levels
  • Variations in the amount of physical exercise
  • Access to information about chronic depression
  • Access to adequate mental health services
  • Personal circumstances (finance, etc)

Here are a list of suicide risk factors and warning signs.

Risk factors for suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts are consistent across countries, and include having a mental disorder and being female, younger, less educated, and unmarried. So says new research from a Harvard University professor and the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Survey Initiative. The study examined both the prevalence and the risk factors for suicide across 17 countries, and is the largest, most representative examination of suicidal behavior ever conducted.

The survey included data from 17 countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, USA, Japan, New Zealand, China, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Ukraine, Israel and Lebanon. A total of 84,850 adults were asked about suicidal behaviors and socio-demographic and psychiatric risk factors.

Previous studies of suicidal behavior have largely relied on smaller, self-selected samples of suicidal individuals, and so it has been unclear how well the results would generalize in different countries around the world. This study is the first to examine the thoughts and behaviors of individuals across numerous, diverse countries.

“Our research suggests that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are more common than one might think, and also that key risk factors for these behaviors are quite consistent across many different countries around the world,” says Nock.

Across the countries included in the study, risk factors for suicidal behavior included female gender, younger age, fewer years of education, unmarried status and the presence of a mental disorder. Additionally, the risk of suicidal thoughts increased sharply during adolescence and young adulthood in every country studied.

The strongest risk factor associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors were mood disorders in high income countries and impulse control disorders in low- and middle-income countries.

“We often think of suicidal thoughts and behaviors as occurring among people who are depressed, but across all of these countries, we found that it is not just depression that increases the risk of suicidal behaviors – impulse control disorders, substance use disorders, and anxiety disorders all are associated with a significantly higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts,” says Nock.

In fact, this study showed that among people with suicidal thoughts, the risk of making an attempt was highest not among those with a mood disorder, but in those with substance abuse and impulse-control disorders, suggesting that these disorders are most strongly associated with acting on suicidal thoughts when they are present.

Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, but information on its prevalence and risk factors is unavailable in many countries, particularly in those that are less developed. Currently, resources devoted to the treatment of mental disorders and to suicide prevention are lacking in many countries. Further research could help to explain the differences in prevalence of suicide thoughts across different countries, Nock says.

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