Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 241–251 | Cite as

Attempted suicide among immigrants in European countries: an international perspective

  • Cendrine Bursztein LipsicasEmail author
  • Ilkka Henrik Mäkinen
  • Alan Apter
  • Diego De Leo
  • Ad Kerkhof
  • Jouko Lönnqvist
  • Konrad Michel
  • Ellinor Salander Renberg
  • Isik Sayil
  • Armin Schmidtke
  • Cornelis van Heeringen
  • Airi Värnik
  • Danuta Wasserman
Original Paper



This study compares the frequencies of attempted suicide among immigrants and their hosts, between different immigrant groups, and between immigrants and their countries of origin.


The material, 27,048 persons, including 4,160 immigrants, was obtained from the WHO/EURO Multicentre Study on Suicidal Behaviour, the largest available European database, and was collected in a standardised manner from 11 European centres in 1989–2003. Person-based suicide-attempt rates (SARs) were calculated for each group. The larger immigrant groups were studied at each centre and compared across centres. Completed-suicide rates of their countries of origin were compared to the SARs of the immigrant groups using rank correlations.


27 of 56 immigrant groups studied showed significantly higher, and only four groups significantly lower SARs than their hosts. Immigrant groups tended to have similar rates across different centres. Moreover, positive correlation between the immigrant SAR and the country-of-origin suicide rate was found. However, Chileans, Iranians, Moroccans, and Turks displayed high SARs as immigrants despite low suicide rates in the home countries.


The similarity of most immigrant groups’ SARs across centres, and the correlation with suicidality in the countries of origin suggest a strong continuity that can be interpreted in either cultural or genetic terms. However, the generally higher rates among immigrants compared to host populations and the similarity of the rates of foreign-born and those immigrants who retained the citizenship of their country of origin point to difficulties in the acculturation and integration process. The positive correlation found between attempted and completed suicide rates suggests that the two are related, a fact with strong implications for suicide prevention.


Suicide Suicide attempt Culture Migration Europe 



This study has been supported by the WHO/EU Network on suicide research and prevention monitoring study project No. 2003135, the Karolinska Institute PhD financing program (KID-funding), the National Prevention of Suicide and Mental Ill-Health (NASP) at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cendrine Bursztein Lipsicas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ilkka Henrik Mäkinen
    • 2
  • Alan Apter
    • 3
  • Diego De Leo
    • 4
  • Ad Kerkhof
    • 5
  • Jouko Lönnqvist
    • 6
  • Konrad Michel
    • 7
  • Ellinor Salander Renberg
    • 8
  • Isik Sayil
    • 9
  • Armin Schmidtke
    • 10
  • Cornelis van Heeringen
    • 11
  • Airi Värnik
    • 12
  • Danuta Wasserman
    • 1
  1. 1.National Prevention of Suicide and Mental Ill-Health (NASP) at Karolinska Institute and Stockholm County Council’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, WHO Lead Collaborating Centre of Mental Health Problems and Suicide across EuropeStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Stockholm Centre on Health of Societies in Transition (SCOHOST), School of Social SciencesSödertörn UniversityStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Feinberg Child Study Center and the Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatrySchneider Children Medical CenterPetah-TikvaIsrael
  4. 4.Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, and Life Promotion Clinic Mt Gravatt campusGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Clinical PsychologyVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse ServicesNational Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)HelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.University Psychiatric Services (UPD)BernSwitzerland
  8. 8.Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of PsychiatryUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  9. 9.Ankara University Crisis Intervention CenterAnkaraTurkey
  10. 10.Unit for Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of WuerzburgWürzburgGermany
  11. 11.Unit for Suicide ResearchUniversity Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, University HospitalGhentBelgium
  12. 12.Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology InstituteTallinnEstonia

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