NZ Suicide stats spur action
The Government is developing an action plan to tackle New Zealand's relatively high suicide rates, which were highlighted in a report released this week.
The most recent suicide data were outlined in the Ministry of Health Report, Suicide Facts.
The report reveals that a total of 522 people died by suicide in New Zealand in 2010, or 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people. As a proportion of population, this is 23.6 percent below the peak of 577 in 1998, but up slightly on the 510 deaths in 2009.
Youth rates for male and female New Zealanders did not compare well with other OECD countries: New Zealand males ranked the fourth-highest and the females the second-highest.
"This is timely data we need to be aware of, so we can see what steps may need to be taken to address both specific issues and any ongoing incidence," Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said in a media statement. He noted that the Government is currently developing a new four-year suicide prevention action plan, which should be released early next year.
This year's report was the first to compare rates of suicide between rural and urban populations - and found a sizeable difference between the two groups.
The total suicide rate for those residing in urban areas was 10.8 per 100,000 population compared to 15.9 for those living in rural areas.
Recent international research
Rural suicide rates were also explored in Australian research published in PNAS on Monday which found that among rural New South Wales males aged 30-45, there was an 15% increased relative risk of suicide during periods of drought. The authors suggest number of factors could be driving the association, such as the social and economic impacts of drought.
Poor economic circumstances have been cited as a factor in UK suicide rates as well, with a new study, published in BMJ this week, estimating that the recession lead to more than 1000 suicides in 2008-10.
The authors of the time-series analysis caution that the study design "cannot ascertain whether the association between job loss and suicides is causal", but go on to state that "the strength of the effect size, timing, consistency, coherence with previous research, existence of plausible mechanisms, and absence of any obvious alternative explanation suggest that it is likely to be."
More info about this research, and expert commentary, can be found on the Science Media Center website.
For information about suicide and suicide prevention, facts, and publications, see the Ministry of Health suicide prevention website.