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Gender, place, and method of suicide

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Abstract

Background

The goal of the study was to investigate whether women use less lethal methods in committing suicide than men. A related objective was to determine whether place of committing suicide influences method of suicide.

Method

Data on all completed suicides occurring in Riverside County from 1998 to 2001 were derived from original death certificates obtained from records of the County Coroner. Descriptive statistics on method and place of suicide by sex were computed and graphically presented. Multivariate logistic regression models were fitted to data on 643 suicide victims to estimate the unique effects of sex and place of suicide on the three most common methods observed: firearms, hanging, and drug poisoning.

Results

Women were over 73% less likely to use firearms than men (OR = 0.267, CI = 0.172, 0.413). There were no sex differentials in hanging. Female victims were over 4 times more likely to die from drug poisoning than male victims (OR = 4.828, CI = 3.047, 7.650). When place of committing suicide was added to the equation, it was found that victims killing themselves at home were over 2.5 times as likely to use firearms as those dying in outdoor settings (OR = 2.501, CI = 1.078, 6.051). Persons committing suicide at home were over 3 times more likely to hang themselves than those killing themselves outdoors or on railway tracks (CI = 3.118, CI = 1.447, 6.718). Victims committing suicide at home were also 3 times as likely to use drugs as those dying outdoors or on railway tracks (OR = 3.118, CI = 1.242, 7.828). Hotel or motel suicides were 4.9 times more likely to use drug poisoning than outdoor or railway suicides (OR = 4.924, CI = 1.409, 17.206).

Conclusions

The proposition that women use less lethal methods of committing suicide than men was only partially supported by the data. It appears that the situation is more complex than a simple dichotomy between more lethal and less lethal methods. In past research, hanging has been considered a very lethal method. However, women were just as likely to hang themselves as men. Furthermore, firearm use was the second mode of suicide among women. The overall policy implication of this study is that suicide prevention efforts should concentrate not only on dissuading potential suicide victims, but also limiting access to firearms and promoting responsible firearm storage practices.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Bob Doyle, Riverside County Sheriff/Coroner/Public Administrator for his permission to collect the data used in this report. Without his authorization, the research would not have been possible. The authors are also indebted to Maribel Solorio, Office Assistant in the Riverside County Coroner’s Bureau. Maribel was kind enough to explain the filing system and helped narrow the search for suicide deaths, which streamlined data collection.

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Correspondence to Augustine J. Kposowa PhD.

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Kposowa, A.J., McElvain, J.P. Gender, place, and method of suicide. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 41, 435–443 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-006-0054-2

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