BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 01 January 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:7
  1. C Zinn,
  2. H Karcher,
  3. M Dolley,
  4. J Rochal,
  5. M Yamauchi,
  6. R Rhein,
  7. T Sheldon,
  8. A Dorozynski,
  9. S Kingman

    Suicide rates have become a major issue in many countries. Comparing rates between countries, however, can be difficult. Some countries thoroughly investigate all deaths that could be suicides while others prefer to classify such deaths as accidents. But it is even harder to find research on why suicide rates in some age groups are rising. We asked our correspondents from around the world to look at suicide rates in their countries.

    *Police prevent a suicide

    Australia: Has the highest rate of young suicides

    Australians had to cope with two unpalatable sets of suicide statistics last year. Firstly, that they have the highest suicide rate of young people in the industrialised world and, secondly, that more Australians kill themselves than die in car accidents.

    In 1992 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 2294 Australians took their own lives. The figure for 1990 was 2200.

    A Unicef report in September found that Australia, with 16.4 suicides per 100 000 among 15-24 year olds, had the highest rate of all industrialised nations.

    Professor Brent Waters, professor of psychiatry at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, said that the high rate could be due to several factors, including high aspirations fuelled by the media, lack of confidence in the future, and the growing incidence of broken families. “Poor self esteem and a series of disappointments in life are leading causes of teenage suicide,” he said. “Things are worse in the rural areas, where in New South Wales the rate of suicide among 15 to 19 year olds is almost twice that in the city.”

    Professor Waters said that the lack of adequate firearm controls meant that three quarters of all suicides among males in rural areas were carried out with a gun.

    Professor Pierre Baume, of Griffith University in Queensland, said that Australia had …

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