Background. There are few cross-national comparisons of the rates of suicide ideation and attempts across diverse countries. Nine independently conducted epidemiological surveys using similar diagnostic assessment and criteria provided an opportunity to obtain that data.
Methods. Suicide ideation and attempts were assessed on the Diagnostic Interview Schedule in over 40000 subjects drawn from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, France, West Germany, Lebanon, Taiwan, Korea and New Zealand.
Results. The lifetime prevalence rates/100 for suicide ideation ranged from 2·09 (Beirut) to 18·51 (Christchurch, New Zealand). Lifetime prevalence rates/100 for suicide attempts ranged from 0·72 (Beirut) to 5·93 (Puerto Rico). Females as compared to males had only marginally higher rates of suicidal ideation in most countries, reaching a two-fold increase in Taiwan. Females as compared to males had more consistently higher rates for suicide attempts, reaching a two- to three-fold increase in most countries. Suicide ideation and attempts in most countries were associated with being currently divorced/separated as compared to currently married.
Conclusions. While the rates of suicide ideation varied widely by country, the rates of suicide attempts were more consistent across most countries. The variations were only partly explained by variation in rates of psychiatric disorders, divorce or separation among countries and are probably due to cultural features that we do not, as yet, understand.
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