The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report this week that has piqued the interest of the public health community for its surprising findings on who commits suicide.
One dramatic trend the WHO reports is that countries in the developing world have suicide rates that are many times higher than the Western world.
“Despite preconceptions that suicide is more prevalent in high-income countries," the report states, "in reality, 75 percent of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries."
Global Suicides by Age and Income of Country, 2012
The high male-to-female ratio of suicide victims is also rapidly equalizing, particularly in the developing world. The changing makeup of the global workforce and its increasing inclusion of women have made women more susceptible to the socioeconomic stress that increases the likelihood for suicide. While the male-to-female ratio for high-income countries is 3.5, the ratio is almost even in low-income countries at 1.6. The divide is particularly close in the Western Pacific (0.9), Southeast Asia (1.6), and the Eastern Mediterranean (1.4).
Male-to-Female Suicide Rate Ratios
Variation in suicide rates by age is also important. Younger women in the 15-to-29 age bracket are as likely as their male counterparts to commit suicide in developing countries at a 1:1 ratio. The gap widens up to middle age, but in general, data indicates that the gender of suicide victims can be male or female, unlike the male dominance of suicides in the developed world.