General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

32 suicides in Russia versus 1 suicide in Peru per 100,000 people per year - How do you explain the greatly varying suicide rates in different countries?

Asked by mattbrowne (31449 points ) May 16th, 2009

Here’s a list of countries taken from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_rates

Lithuania: 39
Belarus: 35
Russia: 32
Hungary: 26
Japan: 24
South Korea: 22
Finland: 20
France: 18
China: 14
Germany: 13
United States: 11
India: 10
United Kingdom: 7
Israel: 6
Brazil: 4
Philippines: 2
Kuwait: 2
Peru: 1

Men kill themselves about 3 to 6 times more often than women. Why?

A notable exception is China, the only country where more women than men commit suicide. Quite strange.

I’ve heard that widespread alcoholism might correlate with higher suicide rates and I’ve also heard that Catholicism might correlate with lower suicide rates. I’m not sure how good the evidence is. What is your opinion?

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28 Answers

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I remember having a book somehwere in my apartment about this exact subject, bought it and then never got a chance to read it, this is getting book marked until I can give a knowledgeable answer. great question.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 – Let me know when you find it :-)

Bagardbilla's avatar

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say lack of sunlight, economic conditions, alcohole, and possibly lack of religious ramifications?
The combined affects of those things can be quite depressing.
Just a guess on my part.
I’d love to see what others think.

Vincentt's avatar

I think weather/amount of daylight really plays an important part in this. Suicide rates during winter are much higher than during summer. Though then again, UK and the Netherlands aren’t that high (the latter might perhaps also have to do with euthanasia being allowed?).

W.r.t. China, it might have something to do with families rather having a boy so he can work the land (like how parents are abandoning their daughters because they’re only allowed to have one child and want it to be a boy). Perhaps women don’t feel as appreciated or something.

mattbrowne's avatar

One theory tries to establish a correlation with the number of prescribed antidepressant drugs in various countries. But the number is supposedly low in Peru. On the other hand there are some studies providing support for antidepressant effects of Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle, also known as American pepper) see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schinus_molle

Tobotron's avatar

Russia yay I used to live there and I can tell you why for that country at least…collapse of Communism followed by some economic woe, no one has a job or at that decent job (remember Russia is huge Moscow and SP are by no means the real Russia) alcoholism is widespread and a real problem, they don’t understand social drinking, your either a drunk or you don’t drink at all (generalisation but its pretty accurate)...there repressed by the government, its not easy to set up a business there and those that have repress others…no health care, no clear future, no wonder they get depressed and these things happen. I worked for part of my time in the countryside, no piped water, no gas, only just electricity installed recently…free as a bird but not a lot else…cities not terrible but nothing like Europe, imagine 1950/60’s Soviet Russia left to crumble, no regeneration, Irkutsk still has a rusty Fayress Wheel thing rotting in the prime central business district. Higher incidence of HIV than many parts of Africa, average monthly wage of $300 you can see it all piecing together now…great place and great people though!!

Tobotron's avatar

@Vincentt the whole boy over girl thing would be a stem off of China’s one child policy where baby girls were abandoned and killed because marrying off a girl meant that family giving a load of stuff to the grooms family, as well as the provider reasons you mentioned…

lillycoyote's avatar

The Slavs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavs seem to have among the highest suicide rates in the world. Maybe there’s a genetic component. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1a_(Y-DNA). There seems to be an interesting correlation between the highest suicide rates and the distribution of Halplogroup R1. Not implying causation, just saying there might be a genetic predisposition to depression/suicide in this group. I checked the wikipedia list and it’s interesting that Haiti, probably one of the toughest places to live in the world, has essentially a zero suicide rate. Of course, there are also all sorts of social and cultural factors that would influence suicide rates.

Tobotron's avatar

@lillycoyote I think you would also have to consider the education and media exposure of the local population, for example Haiti people generally will not have a great idea as to what is going on everywhere else, they may not feel helpless because of this so their life is survival…Russia, everyone has access to media and education, they know shit hit the fan and they may feel helpless to change things…so depression kicks in and suicide increase?...point worth nothing perhaps…

Vincentt's avatar

Another point worth noting is that perhaps some governments might not be so keen on reporting high suicide rates…

Tobotron's avatar

@Vincentt exactly why HIV in Africa seems to vary so much because some governments try to find out and others ignore.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Tobotron Yeah, I just edited my answer to include “social and cultural” factors that could influence suicide rates. I am certainly not arguing that it is purely genetic, just that there may be a genetic component. And there is a lot of evidence that a a predisposition to depression may have a genetic basis in some people

Tobotron's avatar

@lillycoyote I agree it could well do, sounds harsh but could be viewed as natures way of removing the weaker minded from a group…that sounds terrible but if your going genetics your going cave man and I suppose it could help cave man tribes if certain people got rid of themselves, sounds mad but its ‘an’ explanation for an otherwise stupid gene lol

lillycoyote's avatar

@Tobotron I suspect the genetics of depression is a little more complicated than that.

Ivan's avatar

It’s cold in Russia.

Tobotron's avatar

@lillycoyote I know nothing about genetics its purely my ‘man ego’ trying to think of an explanation, I’ve not felt depression/depressed for more than 5 minutes so I probably shouldn’t say any more on the matter lol
@Ivan Its fooking cold in the winter but sweet as tanning come the summer, record temp in Irkutsk was 40 degrees centigrade one summer, thats desert hot!

lillycoyote's avatar

@Tobotron LOL I don’t know much about it either, that’s why I always suspect it’s more complicated that we imagine. And I have just about reached the limits of my own knowledge of genetics and evolutionary biology so I think I’ll shut up just about now too. :)

Linda_Owl's avatar

Difficult question to quantify. There are a great many factors to be taken into consideration. The Russian people, for the most part, have access to various levels of information about the rest of the world – so they can see the differences between their reality & the realities of other countries. They know that their government is still controlling them with a very heavy hand – so there is no real freedom. You also have the Russian criminal elements which are extremely vicious & I’m sure that a lot of Russians feel as though they are caught in the middle of the Russian government on one side & Russian criminals on the other side. Using alcohol is an escape mechanism, but it is an escape mechanism that leads to despair. The birth rate in Russian has been declining for over a decade, their death rate now exceeds their birth rate. You have an extremely cold winter climate, with a lot of snow & over-cast skies, & this can lead to a sort of sensory deprivation (what has been recognized here in the US as a physiological reaction to reduced amounts of sunlight). Taking all of these things together & having to live with them, would definitely lead to intense depression in a great many people, & this would lead to greater numbers of suicides.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Vodka. Russia has one of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. If you ever read Fark.com, there is at least one story a week about a Russian man falling out of a window or surviving a train wreck because he was so drunk.

Tobotron's avatar

@Mamradpivo falls out of window = dead survives train wreck because drunk = lives so alcohol also saves lives in Russia ;)

qashqai's avatar

Climate. Daylight, mainly.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I can agree with Tobotron in that the collapse of the former Soviet Union sent a lot of people into economic as well as emotional crises. For better or worse, think on if the American way of life for several generations, all that you’ve ever known was to change suddenly…

EmpressPixie's avatar

Women attempt suicide more often, but men succeed more often. Why do men succeed over women? Because men more often use methods like shooting themselves or jumping off a buildling—violent methods. Women more often use things like pills—less violent, also more likely to be discovered and saved as they are less quick.

_bob's avatar

I’ve always thought that the high suicide rate in Scandinavia is the ultimate argument for someone with a fatalistic view of the world. There’s no poverty, there’s gender equality, there’s beautiful women (at least for us who <3 Swedish chicks), everything freaking works, but, damn, no sunlight, so people get depressed and kill themselves.

mattbrowne's avatar

@lillycoyote – Thanks for sharing the interesting links.

On a side note: The Fluther software seems to have trouble with certain special characters in URLs. A known problem?

lillycoyote's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes, I noticed one of the links didn’t work but if use the search function in Wikipedia and enter Haplogroup R1a it will take you to the page I was trying to link to

wundayatta's avatar

I figure that depression is a major cause of suicide. Of course, that’s based on my own experience with depression. Well, there are some facts, too. One out of ten bipolar folk successfully commit suicide. I don’t know if unipolar folk are quite as good at it.

Anyway, people who suffer from sudden failures, and lose a lot of money and status—I figure they’ve got to be horribly depressed, and that’s why so many of them jump. We also know that a lack of light is related to seasonal depression, so any geographic area closer to the poles would be expected to have a higher suicide rate. Hmmm. Chile? I wonder if anyone has looked at suicides by latitude?

I believe that a culture with very strict rules will be more likely to have people who feel out of place and that it will be impossible to find a place. That can cause depression and lead to suicide. There are other things that can limit one’s freedom besides cultural rules: economics, ideology. It says Kuwait’s rate is low, but I would question that number. I’m not sure it’s possible to get any good data on this, anyway. I’m very surprised that Russia lets it’s rate be shown as so high. I wonder if the definition of suicide is different in some countries—like drinking yourself to death could be considered suicide.

mattbrowne's avatar

@daloon – ‘Drinking yourself to death could be considered suicide’ – Yes, a very good point! Every statistic has to be viewed as somewhat flawed.

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