Suicide rates down, but not in Eastern Europe

Falls in Western and Central Europe, but Eastern Europe has world’s highest rates


Suicide rates fell by 31 per cent in Western Europe and 23 per cent in Central Europe between 1990 and 2016, according to a new research paper.

In 2016, just under 10 people in every 100,000 committed suicide in Western Europe, and 13 people in every 100,000 in Central Europe, the study reported.

But rates remained unchanged by scientific standards in Central Europe according to the study, which was published in the journal BMJ on 6 February.

In fact, suicide rates in Central Europe were found to be the highest in the world, with 27.5 in every 100,000 people killing themselves in 2016. Suicide was the fourth highest killer in Eastern Europe in 2016, adjusted for age.

In each European region, men were reportedly killing themselves at much higher rates than women. Suicide was found to be 3.5 times higher for men in Western Europe, 5.4 times higher in Central Europe and 6 times higher in Eastern Europe. This gap is widening, the study said.

The trend for Western and Central Europe was similar to that for the world as a whole, where rates fell by 33 per cent from 16.6 per 100,000 in 1990 to 11.2 per 100,000 in 2016.

“Suicide continues to be an important cause of preventable mortality worldwide, resulting in an estimated 817,000 deaths in 2016,” researcher Mohsen Naghavi of the University of Washington wrote in the paper.

“Post-communist privatisation and the Russian economic crisis of 1998 were followed by increases in suicide mortality in eastern Europe, in contrast to a general pattern of decreasing mortality rates overall.”

The data “reflect a complex interplay of factors, specific to regions and nations, including sociodemographic, sociocultural, and religious factors; levels of economic development, unemployment and economic events […] exposure to violence or use of alcohol and drugs; choices of and access to means of suicide; and patterns of mental illness”, Naghavi wrote.

He said that further research is needed to determine whether the declines were due to suicide prevention activities or general improvements in health.

Words: Craig Nicholson
Photo and study: Global, regional, and national burden of suicide mortality 1990 to 2016: systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016
BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 06 February 2019)

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