On the initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), in 2003 September 10th was proclaimed World Suicide Prevention Day by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Since then September 10th has been dedicated to the improvement of education about suicide, dissemination of information, decrease stigmatisation and raise awareness that suicide is preventable. The theme of the 2009 World Suicide Prevention Day is “Suicide Prevention in Different Cultures”. This theme provides the opportunity to remind people that suicide is influenced by cultural, religious, legal, historical, philosophical and traditional factors and that these contexts need to be taken into account in considering suicide prevention.
Suicide one of the leading causes of death in the world
Prevention of premature and potentially avoidable deaths and increasing the mean age at death are currently two of the priority objectives of public health care. In health statistics, premature deaths are deaths before the age of 65.
Among young people under 25, suicide is one of the three leading causes of death. Every year about a million people die by suicide, which means one death every two minutes. The WHO estimates that by the year 2020, this annual toll of suicide deaths will have risen to one and a half million, and suicide will represent 2.4% of the global burden of disease.
The WHO estimates that every year between 10 and 20 million people attempt suicide and about one in ten succeeds; this is more than the number of people murdered and killed in wars combined. In this century alone, more than 8 million people died by suicide. Most of those who ended their own lives decided to commit suicide due to family or personal crises or due to undetected and untreated depression.
The WHO also estimates that by 2020 there will be a million and a half deaths by suicide per year: and more than ten times as many suicide attempts, i.e. three suicides per minute and one suicide attempt every two seconds!
Suicide an important cause of premature death in Europe
The incidence of suicide has been decreasing since 2000 in both Slovenia and the EU-27; in the EU-27 it was 12.7% lower in 2007 than in 2000. In 2006, 58,000 people died by suicide in the EU, i.e. on average one person every 9 minutes.
In some EU-27 Member States the suicide rate is among the highest in the world, while in others it is among the lowest: suicide rates in Member States differ by the factor of 12. In Europe the suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 population) is the highest in the so-called J-curve, which includes Finland, the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. According to Eurostat and the WHO, the suicide rate in 2007 was highest in all age groups in Lithuania (almost 3-times higher than the EU-27 average), followed by Hungary, Slovenia, Latvia, Finland, France and Estonia. As regards EU Member States, in 2007 the suicide rate was the lowest in Cyprus and Greece.
Suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 population), EU-27, 2007
Notes: for EU-27, DK, IE, IT, LU, PT, UK and FX the values for 2006 are shown
Slovenia one of the six countries most at risk in terms of suicide
Slovenia is characterised by high suicide rates (number of suicides per 100,000 population). In the last fifty years, almost 27,000 people died by suicide Slovenia, i.e. one person every 16 hours (a man every 21 hours and a woman every 71 hours).
As regards the suicide rate, Slovenia ranks among the top ten countries in the world and has thus for many decades had an important "contribution" to global suicide statistics. In Slovenia, already in 1960 more than 25 suicides per 100,000 population were recorded. In the 2000-2006 period, the values of the suicide rate were between 25 and 30, and in the last two years of this period 22 and 20. In 2007 more than 18 (18.4) suicides per 100,000 population and in 2008 more than 19 (19.8) suicides per 100,000 population were registered in Slovenia.
In the last decade, i.e. 1999-2008, on average 524 people per year (405 men and 119 women) died as a result of suicide in Slovenia. In 2008, every 45th death was due to suicide: suicide was the cause of every 28th male death and of every 109th female death.
Suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 population), by sex, Slovenia, 1997–2008
Source: Institute of Public Health, SORS
Suicide more frequent for men
Survey results show that men commit suicide 3.5-times more frequently than women. In Slovenia in the last fifty years 20,714 men and 6,142 women committed suicide. In 2008, 324 men and 84 women died by suicide in Slovenia. However, more women than men attempt suicide. Slovenia is also very high in the world – third place – in terms of the number of suicides among women.
As regards the marital status of people who died by suicide, in Slovenia the highest risk of suicide was observed among widowers and divorced men, and the lowest among single and married women.
In Slovenia, the mean age of people who died by suicide is almost 51 years. This is two decades less than the mean age of people who die of natural causes or, in other words, suicides in Slovenia shorten life by an average of 20 years. Significantly lower is the age of those who attempted suicide but survived.
Suicidal behaviour characteristic in all stages of life
The belief that suicide happens only in certain age groups is wrong. Data for Slovenia and research around the world confirm that suicides occur in all stages of life, not only in young and middle age but also in old age.
In Slovenia, suicide in children younger than 15 years is less common, but suicides happen to people of all ages. The number of suicides increases with age as does the value of the suicide rate. Older people thus represent a group at high risk of suicide. In Slovenia, which is in terms of the number of suicides among people over 65 years first in the world, the number of deaths by suicide in people older than 65 years has been rising since 1985. Broken down by sex, statistics are slightly different. Slovenia’s suicide rate for men over 65 years is the highest in Europe, while the female suicide rate is fourth (it is higher in Lithuania, Switzerland and Serbia).
According to the WHO, death by suicide among older people is most often due to depression.
Risk of suicide grows with age
Both in Slovenia and in the rest of the world the risk of suicide in people who opt for suicide is increasing with age. In 2008, in Slovenia most people who decided to commit suicide were 40-59 years old (45-49-year-olds 13.7% and 55-59-year-olds 12.3%). According to the WHO, in 2003 Slovenia was in terms of the suicide rate for persons aged 65 years ranked first in the world. There are, however, differences among Slovenia's statistical regions as regards this indicator.
Suicide rate in Slovenia with its own special characteristics
The suicide rate in Slovenia is not the same in all areas. As regards the incidence of suicide in various regions, Slovenia is actually a small Europe, since the differences in the suicide rates between regions are very large; more than three-fold between the north-eastern and south-western of Slovenia. In general, the value of the suicide rate is the highest in north-eastern Slovenia and falling towards south-western Slovenia. The most affected regions are Prekmurje, Štajerska, Koroška and Dolenjska, since they are characterized by above-average value of the suicide rate, but among them there are also marked differences in specific years.
According to data for 2008, statistical regions in Slovenia most affected by suicide were Jugovzhodna Slovenija, Spodnjeposavska, Savinjska, Zasavska and Pomurska, while the least affected statistical regions were Notransko-kraška and Goriška.
Two-thirds of people committing suicide in Slovenia decide to hang themselves (72% of men and 57% of women), which is peculiar to countries in Eastern Europe.
Suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 population) by sex, statistical regions of Slovenia, 1999–2008 average
Suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 population) by sex, statistical regions of Slovenia, 2008, ranked men decreasing