Fewer suicides in Europe. But not in Norway
A new study finds a decrease of 20 per cent.
In 15 European countries, the number of suicides has decreased significantly from 2011 to 2019.
The decline confirms a trend of falling suicide rates in Europe since the turn of the millennium.
Turkey is the only European country with a clear increase in suicides.
Psychiatric disorders are behind it
The figures recently presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris show that suicide rates have remained roughly unchanged in half of all European countries. Norway is one of these.
“Psychiatric disorders are related to an overwhelming proportion of these cases,” researcher Anna Gimenez said when the results of the study were presented. “In the last years, several specific interventions and action plans for suicide prevention have been implemented in a number of European countries, and we believe that these might have had an impact on suicide trends.”
Gimenez is a researcher at the University of Barcelona, and pointed to the contrast with the United States, where the suicide rate in the population increased by 36 per cent from 2000 to 2018.
Which specific measures work?
In 2011, there were an average of 20 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 38 countries in Europe.
In 2019, this had dropped to 16 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Going forward, researchers must try to find out which specific measures in different countries have had the greatest effect in preventing suicide, Gimenez urges.
Lithuania previously had the highest number of suicides in Europe in relation to the size of its population. This is now the country where the suicide rate has fallen the most. What has Lithuania done right?
No change in the Nordics
In Norway and the other four Nordic countries, there was no significant change in the suicide rate from 2011 to 2019.
Around 650 people take their own lives in Norway every year.
The median age for people who commit suicide in Norway is 47 years.
Two out of three are men. The intriguing thing about Norway and the Nordic countries is that more women take their own lives here than in other European countries.
Approximately 6,500 survivors and close relatives are affected by suicide each year. Among these, researchers see a higher incidence of post-traumatic stress reactions, depression and anxiety than in the rest of the population. There is also a higher level of shame.
Norway is average in Europe
The incidence of suicide in Norway is almost the same as the average in Europe, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).
The incidence in Norway and Europe is down to a third of the figures for Russia and some Asian countries.
Several countries in Southern Africa also have high suicide rates.
No increase in suicides during the pandemic
During the pandemic, there was much concern about whether the shutdown of society and extensive social isolation of people would have negative consequences for many people's mental health.
One of the fears was that this would increase risk of suicide in the population.
The NIPH now has figures: They cannot see any significant changes in the suicide rates in Norway during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.
A separate study by researchers looking at this issue also concludes that a period of particularly strict shutdown of Norwegian society did not lead to more people taking their own lives.
Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.
Major European study confirms drop in suicides in last decade: may be linked to active measures to prevent suicide, press release from the European Psychiatric Association, March 2023.
Stene-Larsen et al. Suicide in Norway, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 2023.
Stene-Larsen et al. Suicide trends in Norway during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: A register-based cohort study, European Psychiatry, vol. 65, 2022. DOI: 10.1192/j.eurpsy.2022.17