Estimating Suicide Rates in Nations that Do Not Report Suicide Statistics

Zorel Zambrano and Lawrence T. White*, Beloit College

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Abstract We report a new method to estimate suicide rates in nations that do not collect or report suicide statistics. Using indicators of suicide rates in a sample of 73 nations and standard regression techniques, we identified four predictors—divorce rate, locus of control, per capita GDP, and fertility rate—and generated different regression equations. These equations appear to produce reasonably valid estimates of national suicide rates.

Introduction What is the suicide rate in Bolivia? Indonesia? Kenya or Taiwan? No one knows because government officials in these countries either do not collect or do not report official suicide statistics. Indeed, there are more than 100 nations that do not report suicide statistics to international organizations such as the World Health Organization.

This lack of reporting is unfortunate, as suicidal behavior is a public health problem in some countries (Platt, Bille-Brahe, Kerkhof, Schmidtke, Bjerke, Crepet et al., 1992), and statistics are useful to government planners, public health officials, medical researchers, and social scientists. When official statistics are unavailable, estimates can be used in their place. But how can we estimate suicide rates?

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