April 17, 2009

Study Finds Suicide Rates Increase During Spring

Suicide rates are more common during the Spring, especially amidst tough economic times, according to a new report issued on Friday.

A survey conducted by Keith Hawton of Oxford University and Kees van Heeringen of University Hospital in Gent, Belgium, showed that about 1 million people commit suicide each year. That figure accounts for about 1.5 percent of deaths globally each year.

Researchers found the global average to be 15 suicides per 100,000 people.

They noted higher rates of suicide "“ at least 20 per 100,000 people "“ in Finland, Latvia, Hungary, China, Japan and Kazakhstan.

In Lithuania, the rate of suicide is almost 40 per 100,000 people, said Hawton and van Heeringen.

"Most people who die by suicide have psychiatric disorders, notably mood, substance-related, anxiety, psychotic, and personality disorders, with comorbidity being common," researchers said in a summary.

"Previous self-harm is a major risk factor. Suicide is also associated with physical characteristics and disorders and smoking. Family history of suicidal behavior is important, as are upbringing, exposure to suicidal behavior by others and in the media, and availability of means."

Suicide makes up about 3.6 percent of all deaths in China, and 30 percent of suicides worldwide.

Rates in the US, Canada and Australia fell just below the world average of 15 suicides per 100,000 people. Rates in Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Iran and Egypt dropped below five per 100,000 people.

Researchers also found that the rate of suicide tends to be higher in sun-deprived regions of Europe, most notably in the Spring.

Additionally, suicides are more common among unemployed people, but researchers said mental illness may also play a role.

"Risk tends to be elevated in people in occupational groups with easy access to means for suicide -- doctors, farmers, pharmacists, dentists, veterinary surgeons and police in countries where they regularly carry guns," Hawton said.

Among medical professionals, female doctors are more likely to take their own lives, they told AFP.

They also studied the methods of suicide and found that men prefer guns and hanging, while women use less violent routes.

Some 90 percent of people who take their own lives are thought to have some form of mental illness.

Other factors include persistent sexual abuse in childhood, natural disasters, and the death of celebrities.

Suicide rates rose by 17 percent following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 in a car accident in Paris.


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