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#3 - JRL 7257
The Lancet (UK)
Volume 362, Number 9379
19 July 2003
Suicide rates in Russia on the increase
By Paul Webster

Figures confirming Russian suicide levels are among the world's highest were reported last week, putting a tragically human face on Russian economic decline since the Soviet collapse in 1990. Russia registered 397 suicides per 100 000 people in 2001, claiming 57 000 lives, according to a report released in collaboration with WHO by the Russian Ministry of Health's Research Institute of Psychiatry.

The 2001 figures represent a slight decline from a peak in 1994 of 421 suicides per 100 000, when the Russian economy was rapidly shrinking, and a slight increase over the 1998 figure of 354, when the economy was rapidly growing. Russian men are now six times more likely to commit suicide than women, and the highest risk group among men is 45-54 year olds, with 1067 suicides per 100 000, according to study author Dmitry Veltischev. Russian women are most likely to kill themselves after the age of 75, with 274 cases per 100 000 reported.

The new figures represent a dramatic increase in Russian suicide rates since 1990, the last year of Soviet government in Russia, when the suicide rate was reported to be 264 per 100 000 people.

A 2002 WHO study found that suicide was the largest cause of preventable death worldwide, with annual suicide deaths matching combined figures from war and homicide. While Russia's rate is well below Lithuania's--which at 51 per 100 000 is the world's highest--it is greater than Western Europe's average of five suicides per 100 000, and North America's average of 41. Alexander Butchart, WHO coordinator for violence prevention says "there was a dramatic increase in Russian suicide rates starting in the mid-1980s through to the mid 1990s, then a brief decline before it began growing again after 2000. The reasons are complex but the suicide rate is obviously linked to social and economic disintegration."

Recent research suggests Russian suicide rates stem from more than just economic issues, though. In a 2000 study of international suicide prevention methods, two researchers from the Keromovo district of Siberia noted a massive increase in gun ownership. According to Natalia Kokorina and Andrew Lopatin of the Kemerovo State Medical Academy, attempted suicide by firearms in their region increased 30% between 1997 and 2000.

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