Archives for suicide



On Suicide and Guns

We’ve blogged quite a bit about suicide and put out an hour-long podcast on the topic. The podcast featured an interview with Matt Wray, a sociologist who studies America’s “suicide belt.” He described the type of American most likely to kill himself:

WRAY: So, yes the Inner Mountain West is a place that is disproportionately populated by middle-aged and aging white men, single, unattached, often unemployed with access to guns. This may turn out to be a very powerful explanation and explain a lot of the variance that we observe. It’s backed up by the fact that the one state that is on par with what we see in the suicide belt is Alaska.

DUBNER: All right, so now you can get a picture of the American who’s most likely to kill himself: an older, white male who owns a gun, probably unmarried and maybe unemployed, living somewhere out west, probably in a rural area. 

A new paper (gated) by Alex Tabarrok and Justin Briggs further examines the connection between firearms and suicides. Tabarrok summarizes their findings at Marginal Revolution: Read More »



Coffee and Suicide

In our hour-long podcast “The Suicide Paradox,” we explored some of the facts and myths about suicide. A new Harvard study highlights another interesting fact: coffee drinkers have a lower risk of suicide. From Time:

According to a study performed by the Harvard School of Public Health and published this month in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, people who drink two to four cups of java each day are less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t drink coffee, drink decaf, or drink fewer than two cups each day. The study followed over 200,000 people for at least 16 years. And it’s not just a weak link: the researchers found that the suicide risk was cut by around 50 percent for caffeine fiends.

The study doesn’t establish causation, but lead researcher Michel Lucas confirmed in a statement that it’s definitely caffeine, which previous research indicates may act as a mild antidepressant, that’s driving the results.  “Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,” he says.



FREAK-est Links

1. In Nashville, Tenn., homicide is at a historic low. (HT: Wesley Hartline)

2. We investigated suicide in our podcast “The Suicide Paradox“; The New York Times profiles  Matthew K. Nock, Harvard’s “suicide detective.”

3. Does price affect adoption? NPR reports that black babies are cheaper to adopt. (HT: Eric Samuelson)

4. Why do theater tickets cost so much? A comparison of “Death of a Salesman” ticket prices in 1949 and 2012.

5. In India, proof of toilet is necessary for a marriage license. (HT: Tony Pappas)



An Easy Way to Cut Down on Pill Suicides?

Ezekiel Emanuel, who’s popped up in our blog and podcasts, writes in the Times about a simple way to reduce suicides:

We need to make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed. We should not be selling big bottles of Tylenol and other drugs that are typically implicated in overdoses, like prescription painkillers and Valium-type drugs, called benzodiazepines. Pills should be packaged in blister packs of 16 or 25. Anyone who wanted 50 would have to buy numerous blister packages and sit down and push out the pills one by one. Turns out you really, really have to want to commit suicide to push out 50 pills. And most people are not that committed.

Read More »



U.S. Suicide Rates Rise

News reports today discuss the prevalence and rise of suicide in the U.S. We reported in depth on the topic of suicide in our 2011 hour-long podcast “The Suicide Paradox.” The episode explores the surprising numbers of suicide (it is twice as common as homicide), the “suicide belt” in America, and the racial differences (blacks are only about half as likely to commit suicide).



When Assisted Suicide Goes From Theory To Practice

Time magazine has a poignant story (which is gated) and video (which is available) on Dr. Peter Goodwin, one of the advocates who helped get assisted suicide laws in place in Oregon and Washington.

Goodwin himself, at the time of the interview, suffered from a degenerative disease that was in the process of killing him and had to decide whether he wanted to take his own life. 

The interview is the last one he gave before his death.



Why Do Elected Coroners Underreport Suicide?

The WSJ reports on a new study that finds that elected coroners report 15% fewer suicides than do appointed medical examiners. The researchers looked at 1,578 counties with elected coroners, and 1,036 with appointed medical examiners, adjusting for poverty, marriage, household income, education levels and gun ownership. Their reasoning for the difference in reporting? Stigma and politics:

“Elected coroners would feel pressure because they are elected by the public at large and would be worried about antagonizing local community stakeholders who might badmouth them,” said Joshua Klugman, PhD, first author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia. “For medical examiners, we think the pressure is still there, but it’s to a lesser degree. They feel insulated from that.”

In addition, the researchers looked at 174 appointed coroners and found that their reporting rate matched the medical examiners, instead of the elected coroners.

In general, suicide is a taboo subject. But not too taboo for us — if you haven’t already downloaded our latest podcast, do so and find out about “The Suicide Paradox.”



China’s Suicide Rate Among the Highest in the World

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Timely, since our latest podcast is “The Paradox of Suicide.” It focuses on the specter of suicide and how, strangely, it tends to be more prevalent in rich societies than in poor ones.

One country not mentioned in the podcast is China, where suicide is definitely a cultural problem. Yesterday, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that China’s official suicide rate is among the highest in the world. It’s so high, that someone tries to kill themselves every two minutes. Roughly 287,000 people commit suicide each year, out of a population of 1.3 billion. From the AFP: Read More »