Fewer Murders, More Suicide?

GOOD produced this sharp info-graphic on murder rates worldwide. One interesting trend it doesn’t show: countries with lower murder rates tend to have higher rates of suicide. Take Japan, which has one of the lowest murder rates in the world — just 0.5 per 100,000 people. It also has a very high rate of suicide, 23.7 per 100,000. Jamaica, on the other hand, has an unusually high murder rate — 49 per 100,000 — and the unusually low suicide rate of 0.35 per 100,000. There are outliers, of course. The highest suicide rates in the world are to be found in successor states to the Soviet Union and the former Warsaw pact, including the Ukraine (52.1), Belarus (63.6), and the Russian Federation itself (70.6). Murder rates in these countries are also elevated (7.04, 7.53, and 16.5 respectively). By way of comparison, the murder rate in the U.S. is 5.8 per 100,000. The suicide rate is 10.85, meaning you’re twice as likely to die by your own hand here than at the hands of another. [%comments]


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  1. science minded says:

    if you wanna know more about why there’s so much suicide these days worldwide. Read Durkheim. When societal regulation is too weak or too strong, you have anomic suicide or fatalistic suicides (without suficient regulation or too much regulation) or societal integration is too strong or too weak, you have altruistic or egoistic suicide. See Goldstein, 1995 Essentials of sociology. So Tom and other interested parties- I would examine the suicide rates at such times in the middle east when the peoples are left to their own devices as compared to when they are not. If `Tom’s `theory’ is specifically correct and Durkheim’s grasp of societies, is correct generally speaking, I would predict lower suicide rates in that region when they are left to their own devices to regulate themselves.

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  2. MRB says:

    I think, when your brain is spending all its energy avoiding dangerous situations, finding clothes and shelter and all the other tribulations of people in poor areas, it has less time to get depressed or think of suicide regardless of any objective quality of life.

    I think you’d find the same correlation even within american cities – rich, white, suburban communities probably have higher suicide rates than poor brown inner cities.

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  3. DickGrogan says:

    Except I live in Baltimore, which means I’m 5-and-a-half times more likely to get offed by someone else than by myself (if you want to take Maryland’s suicide rate of ~8.5 versus the homicide rate for Baltimore of 45).

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  4. Harlan says:

    Huh, that’s a *terrible* infographic. It doesn’t plot the whole range of murder rates, so you can’t see the context. The horizontal position is not linearly related to the murder rates. There’s some sort of implication that the depth of the tag (or size of the tag) is meaningful, but it’s not. The dead person in the middle of the image is the least of the infographic’s problems!

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  5. Richard, UK says:

    Interesting article but I was surprised to read:

    ‘The suicide rate is 10.85, meaning you’re twice as likely to die by your own hand here than at the hands of another. ‘

    This statement ignores the fact that an individuals inherent probability of murder or suicide is a function of their own traits. Be interesting to see some probalistic regressions on the determinants of murder rates to explain some of these results. Imagine it would be far too murky.

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  6. Jason S says:

    I think I would have to disagree with both of the comments above, not because I think they are flat out wrong but because I think there is more to it than a simple answer such as that. This isn’t just a society thing and it probably isn’t a poor vs. rich thing and it most definately isn’t a brown vs. white thing. (why people almost out of instinct assume every poor person is black or brown and every rich person is white is a whole other subject)
    If you look at the top murder rate countries you have conflict African nations and drug run South American countries. While poverty is certainly present in both types of countries they aren’t the only poor nations. If you look at the suicide numbers, again there is a poverty and crime connection in many cases, especially the former Soviet countries like you list above. There still seems to be more to it than that however.
    I wonder if it has more to do with the fact that in violent areas, whether countries or cities, you attain a measurable amount of hope through survival. Now this would most likely be a ‘relavent range’ type of thing because at a certain point the violence just becomes an additional ciphon of hope. However, in some of these countries the mere fact of surviving the day gives you something you can really attach hope to. It isn’t merely not having time to not get depressed, it is that you have actually accomplished something, you made it through another day.
    While it could just be in some places that the people that would have ended up killing themselves were more likely the ones that were murdered in countries with heavy drug trade and war. This would be much like your argument for the drop in crime rates in the 90’s because of abortion.
    But I cannot help but wonder what affect hope has on these numbers, both economic hope and emotional.

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  7. science minded says:

    Exactly– the trials and tribulations have a regulative affect in the social sense. Curiously, I once looked at the relationship between number of people in household and attitudes towards suicide. Living alone and hence weak integration and regulation (from a social i.e., attitudinal standpoint) makes for a more positive attitude towards suicide generally speaking. When the number in household goes to 7 (at that point) attitudes turn positive.

    Keep in mind, however, that Durkheim’s reference point was not the specific individual. It was the group/society as a whole thing.

    Goldstein, 1989, 2009

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  8. science minded says:

    Dear Jason;

    the point is- what is your reference point? MIne- when referring to the sociologist Emile Durkheim is not the specific individual, but (relatively speaking) it is the group (generally speaking). In other words–you Wanna do science– keep em relatively separate (conceptually and methodologically)– which was Einstein’s whole point that he acquired from–yes- us in Sociology– I hate to break this news– but it is `true’-

    How do I know? Robyn Ann Goldstein, 2003 (unpublished) and now published (2009) and in the process of editing)

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