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Ethn Health. 1996 Mar;1(1):55-63.

Suicide patterns and trends in people of Indian subcontinent and Caribbean origin in England and Wales.

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Institute of Public Health, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.



To examine suicide rates and trends in people of Indian subcontinent, east African and Caribbean origin using the latest mortality data available for England and Wales. To compare suicide rates in these groups with the baseline and target rates for suicide in the Health of the Nation strategy.


Suicide data for England and Wales for 1988-1992, classified by the country of birth of the deceased, and population denominators from the 1991 Census were used for the analysis. Standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for ages 15-64 and age-specific ratios were computed, using the age-sex specific rates for England and Wales as the standard. Trends over the preceding decade and suicide by burning were also analysed. Directly age-standardised suicide rates were derived to facilitate comparison with Health of the Nation baseline and target rates.


Suicide ratios were significantly low (SMRs 32, 52 and 55 respectively) in Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Pakistani born men at all ages, but raised in young Indian and east African men. Ratios were significantly high in Indian and east African women (143 and 154), with a 2-3 fold excess at ages 15-34 years. Ratios were low in Pakistani and Bangladeshi women overall, but elevated at 15-24 years. For the Caribbean-born, ratios were low overall but raised at ages 25-34. 20% of Asian female suicides were by burning. Indians are a high risk group in terms of the Health of the Nation suicide targets. Suicide trends in the minority ethnic groups reflect national trends.


This study confirms previous findings of high suicide rates in young Asian women. A new finding is the raised suicide rate in young Caribbeans. High suicide risks among young people from some ethnic minority communities are significant in the context of both the Health of the Nation strategy and recent governmental concern about the need to tackle health variations in the UK. Such deaths are indicative of larger numbers of young ethnic minority adults at risk of mental distress and self harm.

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