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International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health

Editor-in-Chief: Merrick, Joav

Editorial Board Member: Birch, Diana ML / Blum, Robert W. / Greydanus, MD, Dr. HC (Athens), Donald E. / Hardoff, Daniel / Kerr, Mike / Levy, Howard B / Morad, Mohammed / Omar, Hatim A. / de Paul, Joaquin / Rydelius, Per-Anders / Shek, Daniel T.L. / Sher, Leo / Silber, Tomas J. / Towns, Susan / Urkin, Jacob / Verhofstadt-Deneve, Leni / Zeltzer, Lonnie / Tenenbaum, Ariel

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.346
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.310
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.660

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Suicide attempts and suicides in Bolivia from 2007 to 2012: pesticides are the preferred method – females try but males commit suicide!

1, 2 / Mette Christoffersen1 / Nikoline Høgsgaard Veirum3 / Guido Condarco Aquilar4 / Rafael Cervantes Morant4 / Flemming Konradsen5

1Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark

2Unit for Health Promotion, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

3Department of Anthropology, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark

4PLAGBOL Foundation, La Paz, Bolivia

5ISIM, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Corresponding author: Erik Jørs, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Odense University Hospital, Sdr. Boulevard 29, DK-5000 Odense C, Denmark, Phone: +45 51325374, E-mail: ; and Unit for Health Promotion, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

Citation Information: International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. Volume 26, Issue 3, Pages 361–367, ISSN (Online) 2191-0278, ISSN (Print) 0334-0139, DOI: 10.1515/ijamh-2013-0309, October 2013

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Background: Suicide attempts and suicides constitute a significant burden on communities and health systems, especially in low income countries. However, many low income countries lack epidemiological information on which to base future preventive strategies. This study reports on gender and age profiles as well as the likely background and means used for suicide attempts and suicides in Bolivia.

Method: This study presents 1124 cases from four different sources of information: (i) emergency ward data with suicide attempts by poisoning from the year 2007, (ii) psychiatric ward data including suicide attempts from July 2011 to July 2012, (iii) newspaper articles reporting attempted suicides and suicides from 2009 to 2011, and (iv) the National Statistics on Crime reporting suicides from the years 2010–2011. Data on age was stratified into three age groups: adolescents aged 10–19 years, young adults aged 20–29 years, and older adults aged above 29 years. Data from the hospital wards and Crime Statistics were pooled to compare characteristics of suicide attempts with suicides concerning age and gender. Data on age, gender, methods used, and reasons were analyzed using IBM SPSS version 21.

Results: Hospital data showed that more females (403/657, 61%) than males (254/657, 39%) attempted suicide, and females attempted suicide at a younger age than males (p<0.05). In contrast to this, more males (208/293, 70.5%) than females (85/293, 29.5%) committed suicide, and furthermore it was most prevalent among young adults aged 20–29 years of both genders, as observed from the Crime Statistics. The dominant method was pesticide poisoning varying from 400 out of 657 (70.5%) of the hospital poisoning cases to 65 out of 172 (37.8%) of the newspaper cases. Newspaper data showed a higher mortality rate (65/77, 85.1%) among those using violent methods such as hanging and jumping compared to non-violent methods (43/84, 50.9%) such as ingesting chemicals and drugs (p<0.05). The reasons were related to interpersonal problems, economic problems, depression, and unwanted pregnancies. Many cases of suicide seemed to be hidden due to cultural and religious reasons.

Conclusion: More females attempted suicide, whereas more males realized suicide. Suicide attempts were most numerous among adolescents in contrast to suicides being most prevalent in the older age groups. Self-poisoning with pesticides was the most popular method used. Access to potential suicide materials should be restricted and psychosocial interventions initiated to prevent suicides.

Keywords: : adolescents; Bolivia; gender; suicide; suicide attempt

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