Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Suicide rates for White Americans have likely surpassed that of Japan in 2015.

(Consider this a follow-up on my last post, with updated data.)

Back in April 22 CDC released a study which found that the suicide rate in the US reached a 30-year high in 2014. This finding received extensive media commentary. Long story short, age-adjusted suicide rates increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014. The rates were 10.5 in 1999 and 13.0 in 2014.

What was also found was that the age-adjusted suicide rates for non-Hispanic whites were significantly higher than the national average. As they stated their source for most of the data to be the CDC WONDER database, I went to the site to collect some specific data on suicide rate trends for the non-Hispanic white population. Here is what I found:

Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the rightDeathsClick to sort by Deaths ascendingClick to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the leftPopulationClick to sort by Population ascendingClick to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the leftAge Adjusted Rate Per 100,000Click to sort by Age Adjusted Rate Per 100,000 ascendingClick to sort by Age Adjusted Rate Per 100,000 descending

Note that the rate is age-adjusted; the actual crude rates are somewhat higher. In any case, suicide rates for the non-Hispanic white population appears to have increased by about 36.7% since 1999, and is, as of 2014, 16.4 per 100,000 people. Moreover, the trend seems to be upward. Thus I'll be assuming that the rate 2015 is about the same as the 2014 rate.

How about Japan? In 2012, their age-adjusted suicide rate was 18.5 per 100,000 according to the World Health Organization (the actual crude rate is higher due to the relatively large share of elderly Japanese, who also happen to be a very suicide-prone age-group). The actual number of suicides appears to be 27,766 for the year, which is, as the article states, a decline from the year before when the number exceeded 30,000 (the peak was 34,427 in 2003). And it appears the decline hasn't stopped yet, as the number of suicides dropped to 23,971 in 2015, the lowest it has been since 1997.

Now, what does this translate into in actual suicide rates? We know that the actual number of suicides have declined by approx. 13.7% between 2012 and 2015. Meanwhile, the Japanese population appears to have shrunk by 0.4%. This gives an age-adjusted suicide rate of about 16.0 per 100,000 for 2015, assuming similar age demographics and distribution of suicides across age groups. Likely the share of elderly share Japanese increased slightly in these three years, which should imply a slightly lower age-adjusted suicide rate relative to the crude rates, compared to the 2012 figures. In conclusion, the per 100,000 2015 age-adjusted suicide rate for Japan (16.0) appears to be slightly lower than the 2014 age-adjusted suicide rate for non-Hispanic white Americans (16.4). There is no data on the 2015 suicide rate for non-Hispanic whites, but given the 15-year trend I don't expect the rate to be lower than the 2014 rate, and as such slightly higher than the Japanese rates.

This is an interesting development for non-Hispanic whites. After all, Japan is widely known as one of the countries with the highest suicide rates, which has become very much a national stereotype in the West, and is seen as one of the most negative aspects of Japan.

Update: Suicide rates for non-Hispanic white Americans increased to 17.0 per 100,000 in 2015. Source.

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