Suicide among Indigenous Sami in Arctic Norway, 1970–1998


Suicide mortality was examined between 1970 and 1998 in a cohort of 19,801 persons categorized as indigenous Sami in Arctic Norway. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR) were calculated using the suicide rates of the rural population of Arctic Norway as reference. There was a significant moderate increased risk for suicide among indigenous Sami (SMR = 1.27, 95% Confidence interval (CI): 1.02–1.56). In the study period, 89 suicides occurred in the cohort (70 men and 19 women) with increased suicide mortality both for indigenous Sami males (SMR = 1.27; 95% CI: 0.99–1.61) and females (SMR = 1.27; 95% CI: 0.77–1.99). Significant increased suicide mortality was found for young Sami aged 15–24 for both males (SMR = 1.82; 95% CI: 1.13–2.78) and females (SMR = 3.17; 95% CI: 1.17–6.91). Significant increased suicide mortality was found for indigenous Sami males residing in Sami core area (SMR = 1.54; 95% CI: 1.04–2.20) and for indigenous Sami males not belonging to semi-nomadic reindeer herding (SMR = 1.30; 95% CI: 1.00–1.65). Clusters of suicides in Sami core area may explain the increased suicide mortality found in subgroups among indigenous Sami.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.



Confidence interval


Standardized mortality ratio


  1. 1.

    Thorslund J. Suicide among Inuit youth in Greenland 1977–86. Arctic Med Res 1991; (Suppl.): 299–302

  2. 2.

    Sigurdson E, Staley D, Matas M, Hildahl K, Squair K (1994) A five year review of youth suicide in Manitoba. Can J Psychiatry 39:397–403

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Borowsky IW, Resnick MD, Ireland M, Blum RW (1999) Suicide attempts among American Indian and Alaska Native youth: Risk and protective factors. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 153:573–580

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Leineweber M, Bjerrregaard P, Baerveldt C, Voestermans P (2001) Suicide in a society in transition. Int J Circ Health 60: 280–287

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hunter E, Harvey D (2002) Indigenous suicide in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Emerg Med 14:14–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Young TK (1994) The Health of Native Americans – Towards a Biocultural Epidemiology. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Lester D (1999) Native American suicide rates, acculturation stress and traditional integration. Psychol Rep 84(2): 398

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Chandler MJ, Lalonde C (1998) Cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canada’s First Nations. Transcultural Psychiatry 35(2): 191–219

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Aubert W (1978) The Lappish Population in Northern Norway. Aschehoug/ Universitets, forlaget Oslo

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Kvernmo S (2004) Mental health of Sami youth. Int J Circumpolar Health 63: 221–234

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Larsen S (1993) The origin of alcohol-related social norms in the Saami minority. Addiction 88(4): 501–508

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Kvernmo S, Johansen Y, Spein AR, Silviken AC (2003) (Young in Sàpmi). Oaidnil 1:1–65. Centre of Sami Health Research, Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø

  13. 13.

    Heyerdahl S, Kvernmo S, Wichstrøm L (2004) Self-reported behavioural/emotional problems in Norwegian adolescents from multiethnic areas. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 13(2): 64–72

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Njølstad I, Arnesen E, Lund-Larsen PG (1998) Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes mellitus in different ethnic groups: The Finnmark study. Epidemiology 9(5): 550–556

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Tverdal A (1997) Cohort study of ethnic group and cardiovascular and total mortality over 15 years. J Clin Epidemiol 50(6): 719–723

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Utsi E, Bønaa KH (1998) Coronary heart diseases among Lapps and Norwegians in Finnmark. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 118(9): 1358–1362

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Thelle DS, Førde OH (1979) The cardiovascular study in Finnmark county: Coronary risk factors and the occurrence of myocardial infarction in first degree relatives and in subjects of different ethnic origin. Am J Epidemiol 110(6): 708–715

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Hildal G. (Suicide among Sami youth.) Report of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic-Karasjok. 1997 (Available from Postbox 4, 9735 Karasjok, Norway)

  19. 19.

    Kvernmo S, Heyerdahl S (2003) Acculturation strategies and ethnic identity as predictors of behavior problems in arctic minority adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42: 57–65

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Stevenson MR, Wallace LJ, Harrison J, Moller J, Smith RJ (1998) At risk in two worlds: Injury mortality among indigenous people in the US and Australia, 1990–92. Aust NZ J Public Health 22(6): 641–644

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Mehlum L, Hytten K, Gjertsen F (1999) Epidemiological trends of youth suicide in Norway. Archives Suicide Res 5: 193–205

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Bjerregaard P, Lynge I (2006) Suicide – A challenge in modern Greenland. Archives Suicide Res 10: 209–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Gjertsen F (2002) Suicide in the Barents region. Suicidologi 3: 13–17

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    The National Register on Causes of Death. Statistics Norway. 08.05.06

  25. 25.

    Bjerregaard P, Young TK, Dewailly E, Ebbeson SO (2004) Indigenous health in the Arctic: An overview of the circumpolar Inuit population. Scand J Public Health 32: 390–395

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Berry JW (1985) Acculturation among circumpolar peoples implications for health status. Arct Med Res 40: 21–27

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Kvernmo S, Heyerdahl S (2004) Ethnic identity and acculturation attitudes among indigenous Sami and ethnocultural Kven adolescents. J Adolesc Res 19(5): 512–532

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Baller RD, Shin DJ, Rchardson KK (2005) An extension and test of Sutherlands concept of differential social organization: The geographic clustering of Japanese suicide and homicide rates. Suicide Life-Threat Behav 35: 343–355

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Kirmayer LJ (1994) Suicide among Canadian aboriginal peoples. Psychiatric Res Rev 31: 3–58

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Bechtold DW (1988) Cluster suicide in American Indian adolescents. Am Indian Alsk Native Ment Health Res 1(3): 26–35

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Gould MS, Wallenstein S, Kleinman MH, O’Caroll P, Mercy J (1990) Suicide clusters: An examination of age-specific effects. Am J Public Health 80(2):211–212

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Hassler S, Sjölander P, Johansson R, Grönberg H, Damber L (2004) Fatal accidents and suicide among reindeer-herding Sami in Sweden. Int J Circ Health 63(Suppl. 2): 384–388

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Hovland A (1996) Moderne urfolk – samisk ungdom i bevegelse. Cappelen akademiske forlag, Oslo

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Gjertsen F (1995) Variations of suicide rate in the population. Historical perspectives with special reference to the 1970s and 1980s. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 115: 18–22

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Denning DG, Conwell Y, King D, Cox C (2000) Method choice, intent, and gender in completed suicide. Suicide Life-Threat Behav 30(3): 282–288

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Snowdon J (1997) Suicide rates and methods in different age groups: Australian data and perceptions. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 12(2): 253–258

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Gjertsen F. [Trends in suicide. Data source, quality and comparability.] Essay – Master of Public Health. Nordic School of Public Health 2003: 35

Download references


This project has been financed with the aid of EXTRA funds from the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation. The authors want to thank Bjarte Aagnes, Cancer Registry of Norway, for his computational assistance.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Silviken.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Silviken, A., Haldorsen, T. & Kvernmo, S. Suicide among Indigenous Sami in Arctic Norway, 1970–1998. Eur J Epidemiol 21, 707–713 (2006).

Download citation


  • Cause of death
  • Cluster
  • Indigenous Sami
  • Suicide