ken kenneth.mackendrick at
Sun Aug 8 22:42:01 PDT 1999

On Sun, 8 Aug 1999 18:22:41 -0400 (EDT) Marco Anglesio wrote:

> If I recall correctly, there *is* a strong positive correlation
between latitude and suicide rate. Sweden is one of the most northerly nations. Can't cite the study, but it should be around on MEDLINE.

The most important factor with regards to suicide rates has to do with what is and what isn't identified as a suicide attempt vs. accidental death. In countries where suicide attempts are illegal or 'socially' frowned upon, there tends to be a lower suicide rate... (for obvious reasons...) (esp. within religious communities where successful suicide attempts lead directly to hell, or worse). In many cases suicides are written off as accidents if there isn't a note or exemplary evidence... so the rate will be much lower... In southern Ontario the suicide rate almost doubled from one year to the next when suicide was decriminalized (and the number of accidental deaths went down by almost the same number). Since the legal stigma was removed suicide became more of a public issue to be discussed and reporting a suicide became less of a legal battle and more of a pastoral care issue. So things that formerly had been identified as accidents were (as appropriate) identified as suicides. As I understand it, Sweden has one of the most "accurate" accounting methods... so it appears to have a higher suicide rate - only because they record suicides to a greater degree. This doesn't mean that 'industrialized' nations don't have higher suicide rates. However it is worth considering that certain nations record sucides according to different criteria, and a higher rate may have more to do with this than anything else. Insurance is also an issue as is community support for berievement care.

A good many thanks are due to the thanatologists who have laboured to have the laws changed.

My thoughts: countries with developed health care systems tend to have better reporting and recording procedures. So places like Canada and Sweden appear to have higher suicide rates than other places like, say, the U.S. I suspect this has less to do with "modernization" and the loss of meaning (what a good many religious communities claim) and more to do with health / pastoral care.

I don't have any concrete stats to back this up... just some considerations raised by a course I took many years ago (The Human Meaning of Death).


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