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Facts about suicide

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Some facts about suicide:

bullet Inter-country comparisons: 1
bullet Industrialized countries tend to have a higher suicide rate than poor, developing countries
bullet The U.S. has a moderate suicide rate compared to other industrialized countries.
bullet Inter-state/province comparisons:
bullet U.S. Suicide rates are highest in the western and rocky mountain states. They are are lowest in the Northeastern states.
bullet Canadian suicide rates are similar: highest in British Columbia, on the west coast, and lowest in Newfoundland, on the east coast.
bullet U.S. data: 2

There are tens of thousands of suicide in the U.S. every year. The reported number were:

  • 1995: 31,204 deaths

  • 1997: 30,535

  • 2006: 33,000 5

  • 2017: 47,173

The actual number is probably significantly higher, because many suicides are recorded in error as accidents.

Between 1999 and 2014, the annual rate of suicides increased from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 persons.

bullet The most common method that men use to commit suicide (58%)  involves firearms. Simply making firearms less easily accessible to a suicidal person can drastically reduce their chance of them taking their own life. Women more often choose poisoning (40%).
bullet More females than males attempt suicide -- on average two to three times as often as men. 5
bullet More males than females "succeed" at suicide, by a ratio of 4 to 1.
bullet Comparison of groups within the U.S.:
bullet The average suicide rate in the U.S. is about 11 per 100,000 per year. This amounts to one completed suicide every 16 minutes. 5
bullet Between 1 and 2% of all the deaths in 1997 were by suicide. This compares to 31% from heart disease, 23 from cancer, 7% from stroke.

Whites commit suicide at a higher rate, than African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. However, in 2007,:

"Hispanic female high school students in grades 9-12 reported a higher percentage of suicide attempts (14.0%) than their White, non-Hispanic (7.7%) or Black, non-Hispanic (9.9%) counterparts." 5

bullet Young Native Americans have a very high suicide rate. "Among American Indians/Alaska Natives ages 15- to 34-years, suicide is the second leading cause of death." 5 Older Native Americans commit suicide less often than do Whites of the same age.
bullet Married folks have a lower rate of suicide than do divorced, separated, widowed and single people.
bullet Suicide rates increase with age: 4
Age Suicide rate per 100,000
10 to 14 years 1.6
15 to 19 9.5
20 to 24 13.6
Whites over 85 65

bullet About one in three American teenagers has contemplated suicide. An Internet poll by indicated that 50% of teens visiting that web site had considered it.
bullet Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death among the entire population.
bullet Suicide has been reported as the second leading cause of death among teenagers, exceeded only by traffic accidents. However, the suicide rate among teens is actually lower than that of older persons. Teens tend to have few life-threatening illnesses. Teenage deaths from disease is quite low. Thus, the relatively few suicides among teens make suicide a leading cause of death. 3
bullet The reported U.S. suicide rate for very young people (10 to 14 years of age) increased by 183% between 1970 and 1993. However, much of this increase may not be real. In the past, there was widespread denial that pre-teens could decide to end their lives.
bullet Data concerning young homosexuals is somewhat unreliable. It appears that about one in three teen aged suicides is by a gay or lesbian. Since homosexuals represent only about 5% of the population, gays and lesbians are greatly over-represented.
bullet Among the most common faith groups in the U.S., Protestants have the highest suicide rate; Roman Catholics are next; Jews have the lowest rate.
bullet Followers of religions that strongly prohibit suicide, like Christianity and Islam, have a higher suicide rate than those religions which have no strong prohibition (e.g. Buddhism and Hinduism.) 
bullet A person has a higher risk of suicide if their parent, close relative or close friend has taken their own life.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. Some sources may have updated their information since we last downloaded it.

  1. Doug Martin, "Suicide as Deviance," at:
  2. "Suicide," at:
  3. "What is the second leading cause of death among teenagers." at:
  4. "Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention," National Institute of Mental Health, at:
  5. "Suicide: Facts at a Glance," Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009-Summer, at:

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Copyright 2000 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-FEB-9
Latest update: 2020-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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