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Home > Research Articles > Suicide Attempts - The Causes


Monday, April 21, 2003

HealthNewsDigest.com - April 21, 2003

PLACE OF BIRTH, SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS AND SEX ASSOCIATED WITH SUICIDE ATTEMPTS CHICAGO - Birthplace, socioeconomic status and sex may be linked to attempted suicide, according to an article in the April issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information given in the article, refugees and labor migrants have an increased risk of psychological distress, an established risk factor for attempted suicide. Low socioeconomic status, unemployment, young age, female sex, and living alone are all well-documented risk factors for attempted suicide.

Jeanette Westman, R.N., B.D., of the Karolinska Institutet MigraMed, Family Medicine, Stockholm, Sweden and colleagues conducted a population study in 1993 of approximately 4.5 million Swedes aged 25 to 64 years, of whom 570,000 had been born abroad. Participants were tracked until attempted suicide, remigration (moving out of Sweden), death, or the end of the study on December 31, 1998.

The researchers found that labor migrants from Finland and other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries and refugees from Poland and Iran had higher rates of attempted suicides than Swedish-born control subjects. Women born in Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe had significantly higher rates of attempted suicide than Swedish-born women.

In contrast, the researchers found that men born in Southern Europe and Asia had significantly lower rates of attempted suicide. The rates of attempted suicide among women from Iran, Asia, southern Europe, Latin American and eastern Europe considerably exceeded those of men from the same countries.

When the researchers figured in socioeconomic status (defined as individual income), the rates remained high for women while the rates of attempted suicide declined sharply among men as income increased.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the relationship between place of birth and attempted suicide among native Swedes and foreign-born people in a large national sample of both women and men aged 25 to 64 years," the authors write. "Consistent with our expectations, place of birth was associated with attempted suicide. Low SES [socioeconomic status] could only partly explain the association between place of birth and attempted suicide. Moreover, there were important sex differences in attempted suicide, to the disadvantage of women."

Editor's Note: This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council, Stockholm, the Swedish Council for Social Research, Stockholm, the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Stockholm.

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