Suicide by charcoal burning in Taiwan: implications for means substitution by a case-linkage study

  • Chian-Jue Kuo
  • Yeates Conwell
  • Qin Yu
  • Chen-Huan Chiu
  • Ying-Yeh Chen
  • Shang-Ying Tsai
  • Chiao-Chicy ChenEmail author



This study estimated the incidence of suicide mortality among suicide attempters in Taiwan and assessed the extent of means substitution among subjects with a non-fatal attempt and a subsequent fatal attempt during the study period.


A total of 5,261 suicide attempters registered in a surveillance system of a metropolitan catchment area from 2004 to 2005 were followed through 2005. Linkage to the death certification system revealed that 72 died by suicide. The association of completed suicide with the suicide method used at index attempt was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression. Incidence rate for the subsequent lethal suicide was estimated based on life tables.


The 1-year incidence rate of suicide mortality was 0.017: 0.026 in males and 0.013 in females. There was a strong association between burning charcoal as the method used at the index attempt (relative hazard = 4.1, P < 0.001) and completed suicides. Those who used the method of burning charcoal at the index attempt frequently used the same means in a subsequent attempt leading to suicide mortality. However, a majority of suicide completers (59.1%) who died by burning charcoal had used a different method at their index attempt.


Persons who attempt suicide by charcoal burning are a high-risk group for completed suicide. Those who burned charcoal in a suicide attempt were likely to use the same method in a later lethal attempt, and charcoal burning was a frequent cause of death among those who used different methods in earlier attempts. Charcoal burning should be a target for suicide prevention efforts.

Key words

attempted suicide charcoal burning means substitution surveillance 



The research were supported in part by the Taiwan Quality Indicator Project, Department of Health of Taiwan (DOHT-2004-105), and also in part by grants from the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC96-2314-B-532-003) and the National Institutes of Health (P20 MH071897).

The authors thank Xin Tu, PhD for providing statistical advice, and for the advice from Vincent Silenzio, MD. We also thank Chun-Hung Lin, BS., Chun-Chi Lin, BS. and Dy Huang, BS. for their excellent work in collecting information.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chian-Jue Kuo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yeates Conwell
    • 3
  • Qin Yu
    • 3
  • Chen-Huan Chiu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ying-Yeh Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shang-Ying Tsai
    • 2
  • Chiao-Chicy Chen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Dept. of General PsychiatryTaipei City Psychiatric CenterTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Dept. of Psychiatry, School of MedicineTaipei Medical UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  3. 3.Dept. of Psychiatry, Center for the Study and Prevention of SuicideUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.TaipeiTaiwan

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