My role


Young new immigrants at increased suicide risk

The MHF has responded to research in The Lancet suggesting that recent statistics showing a fall in young men's suicide rates mask high rates in specific regions or ethnic groups.

Suicide in young men by a group of researchers led by Dr Alexandra Pitman of University College London Mental Health Sciences Unit is the the second in a series of papers examining under-investigated area of suicide research. It suggests that in England and Wales, first-generation Eastern European and Caribbean immigrants are at particular risk.

The global picture shows national suicide rates for young men falling in countries such as England and Wales, Australia, China and the USA. However, a fall in overall rates can mask worrying problems in specific regions, particularly:

  • rural areas,
  • lower socio-economic groups, and
  • specific ethnic groups.

For example in England and Wales, and in Australia, suicide rates appear to be rising among young men in rural areas but falling among young men in urban areas. For young men in specific ethnic groups, those with the highest suicide rates internationally are white men in South Africa, first-generation Eastern European and Caribbean immigrants to England and Wales, and the indigenous populations of Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

Particular concern at time of high employment

MHF CEO Peter Baker said: ‘It is well established that men and boys have specific mental health needs. What has been missing is how best to identify those at risk and how to improve their health.

'Young men in particular suffer from undiagnosed mental ill-health, leading many to take their own lives. Our own report Delivering Male set out guidelines based on a very wide evidence base which do an excellent job of addressing many of the issues around men’s experience of mental distress, from how to improve men’s awareness of their mental health through to identifying and addressing male-specific symptoms. At a time of growing young male unemployment and economic hardship, it is particularly important to take action to tackle these issues.'

After reviewing research published over the last decade, Dr Pitman's team also found strikingly few studies distinguishing the factors which identify those young men (aged 19–30) at greatest risk of suicide. There were also very few studies determining which suicide prevention interventions are effective in young men. This was surprising both because suicide is second only to accidental death among global causes of mortality for men of this age group, and because of the media attention which suicide in young men tends to receive.

The issue of suicide in young men suffers from many of the same problems as research into adolescent suicide, particularly underestimation of suicide rates and misattribution of deaths to accidents. In some countries – notably Brazil, Singapore, Lithuania and Ireland – suicide rates in young men are rising. Worrying trends are also observed in the rise of new and highly lethal methods of suicide, the spread of which may have been exacerbated by the use of new media.

More young female suicides than male only in China and India

Although globally, absolute rates of suicide in young men are approximately equivalent in high-income countries to those in low- and middle-income countries, suicide does account for a greater proportion of deaths in high-income countries due to the greater contribution of violence and road deaths in low- and middle-income countries. Nonetheless, middle-aged men appear to represent the group at highest suicide risk in many countries. Only in China and rural India do fewer young men than young women die by suicide.

Page created on July 2nd, 2012

Page updated on July 2nd, 2012