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To Want to Die, or Not: Suicide across the Age Groups

While in many countries thousands of people are in a daily struggle to survive, an entirely different picture unfolds in the rich countries, where people do not freeze, have a roof over their heads as well as ample clothing for each season, and can afford even holidays and extensive travels. Instead of rejoicing in gratitude for the security and variety of life, many people suffer so severely mentally with a dread that is so acute that they see no way out and only seek to be rid of what has become an unbearable or meaningless life. Suicide has become a major issue in affluent society; and at the same time it is a taboo subject, because it is contrary to all the ideas of an active, enjoyable and successful life, as advertisement and stories about famous personalities would suggest.

By Marianne Klauser Stalder

Winterthur, Switzerland

Nevertheless, the suicide rate has been on the rise in many European countries since 2007, after having clearly declined from the early Eighties, with prevention measures credited for the drop.

Suicide is so commonplace that this subject concerns us all!

The numbers speak for themselves

In many countries in Europe the suicide rate remains alarmingly high; in addition, many cases remain unreported, particularly within the scope of ​​accidents and drug addiction, when people consciously take risks and gamble thoughtlessly with their lives. The number of suicide attempts is even several times greater! Interestingly enough, regional frequencies can be determined nearly everywhere at times. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about one million suicides every year worldwide and that suicide attempts occur 10 to 20 times more often. Only in countries such as Jamaica, Egypt, Haiti and Jordan does suicide, according to statistics, appear not to be an issue.

Clusters also show in age group and gender distribution: while suicide is less of an issue in childhood up to the age of 10 years, the suicide curve rises sharply in adolescence from age 12 and reaches an initial peak in young adults. In the United States, for example, more than 40,000 people kill themselves every year, according to figures published in 1917 by The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The highest suicide rate is among middle-aged adults, aged 45 to 54. However, the suicide rate for adolescent boys and girls aged 15 to 19 has doubled over the past decade. In the United Kingdom, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the suicide rate among women aged 20 and 24 is at its highest level in two decades, but three-quarters of all suicides are male, with men age 20 to 49 more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death. The rate is also rising in middle-aged men aged 45 to 59. In Germany, three adolescents die every day from suicide, with male adolescents and young adults twice as likely to take this violent step as females. In later adult life, the suicide rate in men is significantly higher in almost all countries than in women. Only China exhibits the world’s highest suicide rate in the female population; this is far greater than among men in the country. In contrast, girls and women in all other countries show a high number of suicide attempts.

In old age the suicide rate again rises significantly, especially by so-called ‘self-determined dying’. The two Swiss euthanasia organisations Exit and Dignitas offer legal assisted suicide services for those suffering from a terminal or progressive illness. The term is also applied to the severely emotionally distressed and elderly people who are tired of living.

Non-assisted suicide occurs across all age groups, and is primarily a plague of those suffering from depression.


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