Current Research on Suicide and Parasuicide: Selected Proceedings of the Second European Symposium on Suicidal Behaviour, Edinburgh, June 1988

By Stephen David Platt; Norman Kreitman | Go to book overview

An international perspective on suicide and its prevention1

R. F.W. DIEKSTRA


Introduction

There are large international variations in death rates from suicides between the countries 2 in the world. Of those countries which report to the World Health Organization (WHO) and whose suicide rates are published in the 1987 WHO Health Statistics Annual ( WHO, 1987) or are available in the WHO databank for at least one year after 1979, the range in suicide rates spans from practically zero (where are are no deaths from suicide) in countries including Malta and Egypt, to the remarkably high rate of nearly 1,000 per million on the Falkland Islands (see Table 1). The highest single yearly rate for the latest year for which data are available was for 20-24-year-old males on the Falkland Islands, at the rate of 5000 suicides per million population. 3 An inspection of Table 1 shows a pattern in the suicide rates. Arabic countries have relatively low rates of suicide. The same holds true for the Latin American countries, which also tend to have lower rates. The European countries and countries populated in the majority by people of European descent, such as Australia, the United States of America and Canada, tend to have relatively high rates. Within the European countries there is a discernible pattern also. Southern European countries have relatively low rates, while Northern and Middle European countries usually have higher rates of suicide. The Asians have rates more evenly distributed across the range. It would, however, be unjustified to consider Table 1 as a totally accurate or complete reflection of the international mortality by suicide. First of all, only seventy-one countries are reported here (some of them not being nations in the legal sense of the word) of the 166 member states of WHO today.

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