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Suicide attempts and self-harm during a dramatic national economic transition: a population-based study in Iceland

31 Aug 2016


Background: Macroeconomic downturns have been associated with increased suicide rates. This study examined potential changes in suicide attempts and self-harm in Iceland during a period of major economic transition (2003–12). Methods: Data were retrieved from the National University Hospital in Reykjavik (population size: 204.725), containing all ICD-10 diagnoses connected to potential suicidal behaviour. Poisson regression models were used to compare attendance rates before and after the 2008 economic collapse. Results: During the study period, a total of 4537 attendances of 2816 individuals were recorded due to suicide attempts or self-harm. We noted a significant change in total attendance rates among men, characterized by an annual increase in attendance rate pre-collapse of 1.83 per 100.000 inhabitants and a decrease of 3.06 per 100.000 inhabitants post-collapse (P = 0.0067). Such pattern was not observed among women. When restricting to first attendances only, we found a reduced incidence post-crisis among both men (RR: 0.85; 0.76–0.96) and women (RR: 0.86; 0.79–0.92). We further found 1% increase in unemployment rate and balance of trade to be associated with reduced attendance rates among men (RR: 0.84; 0.76–0.93 and RR: 0.81; 0.75–0.88, respectively) but not among women. Conclusion: These data suggest no overall increase in attendance rates due to suicide attempts or self-harm following the 2008 Icelandic economic collapse. In fact, a high-point in self-harm and suicide attempts was observed among men at the height of the economic boom and a decrease in new attendances among both men and women after the economic collapse.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in European Journal of Public Health