, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 45-52
Date: 17 May 2013

Northern excess in adolescent male firearm suicides: a register-based regional study from Finland, 1972–2009

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Abstract

There are more firearms in Northern Finland as compared to Southern Finland, and a positive association between suicide rates and the number of firearms in a given region has been demonstrated in previous literature. Accordingly, the authors compared firearm suicide rates of Finnish adolescent (under 18 years) males in the two geographic regions. Young adult (18–24 years) and adult (25–44 years) males were used as reference groups. National data on cases of suicide in Northern and Southern Finland between 1972 and 2009 were obtained from Statistics Finland. Firearm suicides (n = 5,423) were extracted according to ICD-classification (ICD-8/9: E955, ICD-10: X72-X75). The distribution of types of firearms (hunting gun, handgun, other) employed in suicides was also investigated. The adolescent male firearm suicide rate in Northern Finland was almost three times higher than that observed in Southern Finland, while there was no difference in rates of suicide by other methods. A northern excess in firearm suicide rates was also found among young adult and adult males. Hunting guns were the most common type of firearms employed in young male suicides, and their use was especially common in Northern Finland. Our results indicate that the use of firearms plays a major role in explaining the northern excess in young Finnish male suicide rates, and emphasize a need to advance suicide prevention according to specific regional characteristics.