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A closer look at the increase in suicide rates in South Korea from 1986–2005

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-72

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We used data on total mortality and suicide rates from 1986 to 2005 published online by the Korean National Statistical Office (NSO) and extracted data for individuals under 80 years old. The analyses of the trends for 1) the sex-age-specific total mortality rate, 2) the sex-age-specific suicide rate, and 3) the sex-age-specific proportional suicide rate in 1986–2005 were conducted. To demonstrate the birth cohort effect on the proportional suicide rate, the synthetic birth cohort from 1924 to 1978 from the successive cross-sectional data was constructed.Age standardized suicide rates in South Korea increased by 98% in men (from 15.3 to 30.3 per 100,000) and by 124% in women (from 5.8 to 13.0 per 100,000). In both genders, the proportional increase in suicide rates was more prominent among the younger group aged under 45, despite the absolute increase being attributed to the older group. There were distinct cohort effects underlying increasing suicide rates particularly among younger age groups.Increasing suicide rates in Korea was composed of a greater absolute increase in the older group and a greater proportional increase in the younger group.Suicide is a dramatic example of individual behaviour influenced by social integration or regulation, as originally noted by Durkheim [1]. Therefore, not only individual factors but also socioeconomic changes should be considered to explain suicide patterns in a society. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics from 1965 to 1999, suicide rates had a variation and showed mixed trends between countries and age-groups. While total suicide mortality rates in all ages have been decreasing or in a steady status in most developed countries after 1990s, it has been increasing in some countries especially which have suffered huge economic turmoil such as Russia. There are some reports on suicide rates by age group. In a few countries including New Zealand and Australia, there were rising trends in young people [2,3]. I


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