Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:35 pm

I was shocked to read on the BBC web site that over 6,000 people committed suicide in the UK during 2011. It didn't really surprise me too much that the rate in the UK had increased in recent years, nor that it was fairly high in the league tables. What surprised me more was the wide range of rates in different countries. Perhaps that is heavily influence by suicides being under reported in some cultures. I would have expected it to be about the same sort of range everywhere — perhaps 5-15 per 100,000.

Some interesting figures:

Sri Lanka = 21.6
UK = 11.8
Seychelles = 4.6 (zero for women)
St Lucia = 2.4 (zero for women)
Pakistan = 0.88
Jamaica = 0.1
Haiti = 0.0

Any thoughts on why suicide is more common among men, or so high in some countries, while being close to zero in some places.
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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Ben » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:41 pm

I would say it is under reported or unreported in some countries, Bhante.
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Sam Vara
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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:22 pm

The under-reporting is certainly a factor.

The first systematic sociological study of suicide rates was by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim. He looked at comparative rates across European countries and found that suicide negatively correlated with the degree of "social integration" in that society. Countries where people were strongly integrated into social structures and systems of belief tended to have fewer suicides than countries where social bonds were weaker. For example, suicide was more common in Protestant than Catholic societies; in urbanising rather than rural societies; among the armed forces; where there was rapid industrialisation or other economic change; where families were smaller and less extended in structure; and where marriage was less common.

Durkheim's work has taken a lot of criticism, but the "integrative" factors he outlines are often cited as being correlated with suicide rates to this day. And (worth thinking about, this one!) his work points away from a model where a lonely existential "self" makes a despairing choice in isolation, and more towards the operation of impersonal social forces.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_(book)

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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:34 pm

Sam Vara wrote:The first systematic sociological study of suicide rates was by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim. He looked at comparative rates across European countries and found that suicide negatively correlated with the degree of "social integration" in that society. Countries where people were strongly integrated into social structures and systems of belief tended to have fewer suicides than countries where social bonds were weaker.


Interesting. I was wondering whether suicide rates are likely to be higher in more secular societies.
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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:48 pm

porpoise wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:The first systematic sociological study of suicide rates was by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim. He looked at comparative rates across European countries and found that suicide negatively correlated with the degree of "social integration" in that society. Countries where people were strongly integrated into social structures and systems of belief tended to have fewer suicides than countries where social bonds were weaker.


Interesting. I was wondering whether suicide rates are likely to be higher in more secular societies.


Well, Durkheim did his study at the end of the 19th Century and this pre-dated what we would term "secular" societies, but I think his main findings would point in that general direction.

Not only do religious organisations provide social structures and systems of social control, they have the only weapon that can make the potential suicide fear the consequences of their actions: a bad destination hereafter!

In practice, I suspect that the different variables to do with modernisation, industrialisation, and secularisation are so tightly inter-woven that it would be difficult to separate them out.

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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:02 pm

Sam Vara wrote:In practice, I suspect that the different variables to do with modernisation, industrialisation, and secularisation are so tightly inter-woven that it would be difficult to separate them out.


Yes, I used to have some involvement with research and I can remember how tricky it is to isolate variables and interpret results.
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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:14 pm

Durkheim's findings are very accurate and appear to be timeless. To this day, we still find higher suicide rates and depression in general among those with less social integration, less religiosity, less of an extended-family structure.

Even among those in very impoverished countries like Haiti and some African countries, the suicide rates are very low -- why -- because the social structure is very close-knit, very strong and religion is a big part of people's lives. In developed countries there is more social isolation, more secularization and more suicides.

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Re: Suicide Rates: Why Such A Wide Range?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:47 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Any thoughts on why suicide is more common among men, or so high in some countries, while being close to zero in some places.

I recently posted this video
[Warning]There are some "vulgar" words[/Warning]

for another purpose but maybe it is also relevant to this in some way in explaining one possible reason (although not directly)
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