Human Exceptionalism

10% of Suicides Involve Illness

Is anyone surprised? According to the British Medical Association Journal 10%–a likely under count–of suicides involve people with physical illnesses.  The Telegraph has this excerpt:

At least 10 per cent of suicides that take place in England involve people with either a chronic or terminal illness. It is likely that this figure may be a significant underestimate, as we also found anecdotal evidence that some coroners currently choose not to include relevant health information within their inquest records, which are frequently the main input to PCTs’ suicide audits. We found that there was an average figure of 2.1 per cent of suicides involving terminal illness across the PCTs that responded, and an average of 10.6 per cent involving chronic illness, there was also an average of 21.4 per cent involving ‘some specific form of physical illness or health condition’. These figures cannot simply be added together, as some PCTs informed us that they had included the same suicide case within more than one category. However, they do indicate that our estimate of at least 10 per cent of suicides nationally involving some form of serious physical illness (either chronic or terminal) is a robust and conservative one.

Here’s a link to the extract (BMJ 2011; 343:d5464:

Do we want to increase this appalling number?  If so, we couldn’t do a better job than we are, what with assisted suicide advocates, law enforcement, and media increasingly winking at–and even endorsing–suicide to alleviate physical suffering.  Unless we reverse course and aggressively engage in suicide prevention no matter what the cause–not just some so-called “irrational suicides”–this woeful count will only grow.


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