Since the 1950s, the World Health Organization (WHO) has collected international mortality (or cause of death) data. There are international principles concerning information on cause of death, but there are still some variations between different countries in the procedure of handling the information. Besides that, the year for the latest statistical information can vary from one country to another. Therefore all international suicide statistic should be interpreted with caution. The suicide rate is expressed in number of suicides per year and 100,000 inhabitants over 15 years. The suicide rate for the United States (total population) in 2001, is 10.7 (per 100,000 inhabitants).
The latest estimates are that somewere around one million people in the world commit suicide every year. The similar figure for Europe is approximately 150,000 (but this only includes 33 countries), and in the United States the latest number is 30,000. In Europe and in the United States suicide is about four times more common among men than women.
Both in the United States, the number of suicide deaths is almost as high as the number of deaths by homicide and HIV/AIDS together. The latest information also indicates that the number of deaths due to all armed conflicts in the world are outnumbered by suicides.
Suicide in the age group 15-24
For the group 15-34 years of age, suicide is today one of the three leading causes of death in all countries (where mortality data is available). In the United States (2001) suicide was the third leading cause of death, among people between 15 and 24 years of age, with a rate of 9.9/100,000. The two leading causes was accidental injuries and homicide.
The suicide rate in Sweden, for this age group, is similar to the American rate. In Sweden, however, the total number of deaths by suicide has dropped significantly since the 1980s, except for this specific group.
The United States and Sweden still have a relatively low rate for this group, compared to the average number in Europe. The European suicide rate is 22.2 for boys and 4.8 for girls, or around 13 in average.
In Europe statistics are collected from 33 countries. The latest avaliable data for the group 15-24 years of age, shows that the Russian federation is at the top of the list (32/100,000), followed by Lithuania, Finland, Latvia and Slovenia. Sweden (which can be compared with the U. S.) is, according to this list, in 18th place (with less than 10/100,000). In the bottom of the list are Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy and last Greece (3/100,000).
It is uncertain how many suicide attempts there are for each suicide death. Different studies estimate a number between 10 and 20. In general, there are more attempts per suicide among women and younger people. Research also show that around 80 percent of attempted suicides among young people are preceded by clear warning signs.
Statistics over the total population
Counting the total population, the highest suicide rates are found in eastern Europe. On top is Lithuania (74.3 for men and 13.9 for women), Russia (69.3/11.9) and Belarus (63.3/10.3). After follows Kazakhstan, Estonia, Sri Lanka, Hungary, Slovenia, Ukraine and Latvia.
For some other countries the latest suicide rates are as follows: Sweden (18.9/8.1), Finland (31.9/9.8), Germany (20.4/7.0), Great Britain (10.8/3.1), U. S. (17.6/4.1) and Japan (35.2/12.8).
For more information concerning suicide statistics and prevention, see
WHO; suicide prevention