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Bull World Health Organ. 2008 Sep;86(9):726-32.

Methods of suicide: international suicide patterns derived from the WHO mortality database.

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Psychiatric University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.



Accurate information about preferred suicide methods is important for devising strategies and programmes for suicide prevention. Our knowledge of the methods used and their variation across countries and world regions is still limited. The aim of this study was to provide the first comprehensive overview of international patterns of suicide methods.


Data encoded according to the International Classification of Diseases (10th revision) were derived from the WHO mortality database. The classification was used to differentiate suicide methods. Correspondence analysis was used to identify typical patterns of suicide methods in different countries by providing a summary of cross-tabulated data.


Poisoning by pesticide was common in many Asian countries and in Latin America; poisoning by drugs was common in both Nordic countries and the United Kingdom. Hanging was the preferred method of suicide in eastern Europe, as was firearm suicide in the United States and jumping from a high place in cities and urban societies such as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. Correspondence analysis demonstrated a polarization between pesticide suicide and firearm suicide at the expense of traditional methods, such as hanging and jumping from a high place, which lay in between.


This analysis showed that pesticide suicide and firearm suicide replaced traditional methods in many countries. The observed suicide pattern depended upon the availability of the methods used, in particular the availability of technical means. The present evidence indicates that restricting access to the means of suicide is more urgent and more technically feasible than ever.

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