Suicide Rates Vary Based on Naturalization

Suicide rates are higher among some ethnic groups than others. Multiple factors contribute to the rates of suicide ideation and attempt within different cultures. Understanding what influences increase the chance of suicide within a particular ethnic group will help clinicians and communities design and implement interventions for those most at risk for suicide. To determine how suicide rates vary across various ethnicities, G. Borges of the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico City, Mexico, recently led a study that looked at four ethnic groups, Asians, Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks. Borges analyzed how naturalization, immigration age, and race affected suicide ideation and attempt in a sample of over 15,000 individuals using the World Mental Health version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (WMH-CIDI).

Borges found significant differences in the rates of suicidality among the groups. First, he discovered that regardless of race, the respondents born in the United States were more likely to have attempted suicide than those who immigrated. Of all the participants that were born in the United States, Whites had the highest levels of suicidal ideation at 16%, and Hispanics had the highest rates of suicide attempts at 5.11%. The results also revealed that Asians had the lowest rates of suicidal ideation and attempts, at 9.02% and 2.55%, respectively.  When Borges compared rates of suicide attempts within groups before and after immigration, he found that rates were significantly lower prior to immigration and eventually equaled those of U.S.-born respondents after immigration.

Borges also evaluated psychiatric illness in relation to suicide. As rates of mental problems tend to be higher for Whites than for other ethnic groups, Borger theorized that this would influence the higher levels of suicidal ideation and attempts within White respondents. The findings partially supported this theory, but ethnic origin and predisposition also contributed to the overall outcome of the analyses. In conclusion, this study highlights the importance of ethnic differences and risk factors among those most vulnerable to suicide. Borges added, “These findings suggest that, from a public health perspective, more preventive efforts should be directed to second-generation immigrants who have lost all protective factors, whatever they were.”

Borges, G., Orozco, R, Rafful, C., Miller, E., Breslau, J. (2012). Suicidality, ethnicity and immigration in the USA. Psychological Medicine, 42.6, 1175-1184.

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  • Bern


    May 22nd, 2012 at 4:16 AM

    This is so surprising to me, because I think that in general it is considered that Americans are more laid back than some other cultures. Therefore that would make me think that our suicide rates would be lower- if we can be that laid back then what could be so bad that would encourage us to have such high suicide rates? I would a little more naturaly believe that this would be higher in other cultures where they experience a lot more pressure on one another, like I would think that Asian numbers would be higher. But maybe this is so taboo in that culture that it really does not become an option for a high percentage of people.

  • shelley s

    shelley s

    May 22nd, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    funny how we always talk about things like “people are people” and that differences like ethnicity don’t matter, but I guess thuis research kind of says otherwise

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