FIGURE 2-1 Rates of Suicide and Homicide in the United States: 1900–2000. Based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2001), Bureau of the Census (1976), Hoyert et al. (2001), Minino and Smith (2001), and NCHS (2001). Inconsistencies in reporting before 1933 may account for some of the early fluctuations in rates.

This chapter reviews the characteristics of some of the populations at risk, describes the geographical differences, and briefly explores the limitations of the epidemiological data. The chapter closes with an analysis of the economic cost to society that suicide presents.


Suicide rates are generally higher in northern European nations than in southern European nations (see Table 2-1). For example, Hungary’s suicide rate was over 33 per 100,000 as of 1999 (WHO, 2001a). In comparison, Greece has had low suicide rates, only 3.8 per 100,000 as of 1998 (WHO, 2001a). Suicide rates have been high in recent years in many, but not all, of the former Soviet states. For example, suicide rates are over 35 per 100,000 in the Russian Federation and Lithuania, but are less than 5 per 100,000 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (WHO, 2001a).

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