Suicide occurs throughout the world, affecting individuals of all nations, cultures, religions, genders, and classes. Other innate factors, such as disorders of the mind and abnormalities at birth, can heighten someone's propensity for experiencing depression, whether as the occasional episode or a lifelong ailment.
To lower the rates of deaths resulting from suicide, countries need to address many common underlying factors that add up and make someone more likely to choose suicide as an outlet. Depression rates are one factor that holds serious importance, but other factors to take into consideration are:
- Academic performance
- Physical condition
- Mental health and well-being
- Economic standing
- Financial struggles
- Workplace performance
- Overall life satisfaction
Countries with the Highest Suicide Rates
In 2019, the ten countries with the highest suicide rates (number of suicides per 100k) were:
- Lesotho - 72.4
- Guyana - 40.3
- Eswatini - 29.4
- South Korea - 28.6
- Kiribati - 28.3
- Federated States of Micronesia - 28.2
- Lithuania - 26.1
- Suriname - 25.4
- Russia - 25.1
- South Africa - 23.5
The only western European nation with an exceptionally high suicide rate is Belgium, which ranks at number eleven with 18.3 suicides per 100k. However, it is worth noting that Belgium has some of the world's most liberal laws on doctor-assisted suicide, also known as euthanasia, which is likely to be a factor in its statistics.
Countries with the Lowest Suicide Rates
Perhaps surprisingly, many of the most troubled nations in the world have comparatively low suicide rates. Afghanistan has 4.1 suicides per 100k; Iraq has 3.6, and Syria has just 2.0. It is not clear if the suicide statistics for these countries reflect suicides committed due to mental health problems and terminal illnesses (which are the primary reasons for suicide in most of the world) or include suicides committed as part of the ongoing conflicts in these countries.
The world's lowest suicide rates are in the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda - 0.4
- Barbados - 0.6
- Grenada - 0.7
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - 1.0
- Sao Tome and Principe - 1.5
- Jordan - 1.6
- Syria - 2.0
- Venezuela - 2.1
- Honduras - 2.1
- Philippines - 2.2
Suicide in South Korea
According to the World Health Organization, the suicide rate in South Korea is the fourth highest in the world. One factor in its high suicide rate is suicides among the elderly. Traditionally, children have been expected to care for their aging parents; however, because this system has mostly disappeared in the twenty-first century, many older adults commit suicide, rather than feel like they are a financial burden on their families.
In addition to the elderly, students have higher-than-average suicide rates, at least partly because they feel high levels of pressure to succeed academically. When they do not achieve their goals, they may feel that they have dishonored their families. Alcohol use, sleep deprivation, stress, and poor social relationships can put students at increased risk of suicide.
One of the most common methods of committing suicide in South Korea is poisoning via carbon monoxide. Additionally, many choose to jump off a bridge. In Seoul, the Mapo Bridge has earned the nickname "The Bridge of Death" or "Suicide Bridge" because of how many people jump off it.
The government of South Korea is making efforts to curb the suicide epidemic. It strives to increase mental healthcare access, a necessity as 90% of suicide victims in South Korea may have a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition. It is also providing education to community leaders to help prevent suicides at a local level.
Suicide in Japan
Japan's total numbers place it significantly outside the top 10, but suicide is nonetheless a serious concern there. Suicide is the leading cause of death in men between the ages of 20-44 and women between the ages of 15-34. The government has been active in intervention to decrease the risk of suicide, particularly among vulnerable populations.
Japanese men are twice as likely to commit suicide as their female counterparts, particularly after a divorce. Of particular concern is suicide among men who have recently lost their jobs and are no longer able to provide for their families. People are expected to stay married to a single person and stay on a single job for their entire life, and the pressure of this expectation can make a divorce or job loss feel like a failure.
Aokigahara Forest, at the base of Japan's Mount Fuji, is a hotspot for suicides, as hundreds of people go there each year to end their lives. Police regularly patrol the area for suicide victims and survivors.
Suicide in Sweden
In 2019, Sweden had 14.7 suicides per 100,000 people. Historically, Sweden has had a high suicide rate, with the most suicides in the developed world during the 1960s. That may have been due, at least in part, to cultural attitudes regarding suicide and long, dark winters, particularly in the northern regions. The government responded to the crisis with social welfare and mental health services, and the numbers have dropped dramatically. Today, Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland – have very high happiness rates and relatively low suicide rates. However, the dark winters – 20 hours of darkness or more in each day in some areas – causes seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression, which has been known to correlate with higher rates of suicide.
Euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide, is still illegal in Sweden but is accepted in some instances. A physician may not administer lethal drugs to a terminally ill patient, but he or she may end life support of the patient requests doing so and demonstrates that they understand the consequences. This form of physician-assisted suicide, known as passive euthanasia, is not included in suicide statistics. Active euthanasia, when a physician administers lethal drugs to a terminally ill patient with the patient and family's consent, may soon become legal in Sweden, as it is becoming more accepted in European countries.
Suicide in China
In China, suicide is the fifth leading cause of death and accounts for over one-quarter of suicides worldwide. In contrast with many Western countries, in which men are more likely to commit suicide, most suicide victims in China are women. China's economic boom has led to greater independence for women, who are now much more able to get divorced as a means of dealing with domestic violence. However, the strain of divorce means that they must work long hours while raising their children, often without family support that the culture has traditionally relied on in the past.
When women show the strain of their stressful lives and are admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care, they are likely to be discharged much sooner than their male counterparts. They feel that they need to return to their jobs and families as quickly as possible, even if they are not ready to do so. Additionally, many insurances do not cover hospital stays in cases of attempted suicide. These strains have exacerbated suicide among Chinese women.
People in rural parts of China are five times more likely to commit suicide than people in cities. This notion may be attributed to a lack of mental healthcare, the stigma associated with mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia), poverty, and poor education. However, exact statistics are hard to come by because the Chinese government has carried out few to no epidemiological studies on suicide.
Most suicide attempts in China are carried out with a pesticide or other poison.