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Rep Group Adv Psychiatry. 1989;(128):1-131.

Suicide and ethnicity in the United States. Committee on Cultural Psychiatry. Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry.

[No authors listed]


In the preceding chapters we have reviewed the available data on suicide among four major ethnic groups in the United States. In this final chapter, we wish to draw together the thematic threads observed in several of the groups we have studied. We also wish to point out thematic differences in the suicide data among the four groups studied and the possible significance of these differences. The most striking common theme that emerges from the analysis of suicide data for the four ethnic groups is the finding that suicide occurs most frequently among youth and young adults, and predominantly among young men. This is the case for Blacks, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican-Americans. The data for Japanese-Americans, showing a minor peak of suicide in young adulthood, allow some consideration of this general theme for this ethnic group as well. A notable exception is the Chinese-American group. A second major theme is the low rate of suicide among Black, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican-American women, compared with males of this age group and compared with the majority population. Here, too, Chinese-American women are a dramatic exception, with peak suicide incidence occurring in older women. A third common theme is the comparatively low rate of suicide among older people in three of the four ethnic groups: Blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics--both Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans. There are important differences in frequency of suicide between the majority population and the ethnic groups, but these differences are not consistent for the four ethnic groups studied. Most dramatic are the substantially higher aggregate rate of suicide among Native Americans than that which occurs among the majority population and the lower rates among Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican-Americans. The rates for Chinese- and Japanese-Americans are lower than the national figures, but not strikingly dissimilar. It is important to highlight the notion that no explanatory theory by itself accounts in a consistent way for the differences in suicide rates between the majority, White US population and the four ethnic groups we have studied.

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