Lower suicide rate linked to reduced FSU immigration

Recent Ethiopian immigrants more likely to kill themselves than veteran Israelis, says Health Ministry report.

June 7, 2010 06:27
3 minute read.
Lower suicide rate linked to reduced FSU immigration

suicide 88. (photo credit: )

The good news is that the suicide rate in Israel has significantly declined; the bad news is that the decline in aliya from the former Soviet Union – some of whose new immigrants have tended to end their lives due to pressures and problems – is partly responsible for this.

According to a Health Ministry report on suicide released for publication on Monday, Israel’s suicide rate is the second lowest among 25 European countries. It is, however, the fifth lowest in the list of males, and fourth lowest in the list of women, aged 15 to 29.

During the first years of the 21st century, a third of all suicides were committed by recent immigrants – a quarter of them by those who came from the former Soviet Union after 1990 and 3 to 8 percent by former immigrants from Ethiopia who have come since 1980. In 2007, there were 99 immigrant suicides over the age of 15 – 76 by those from the FSU and 16 by those from Ethiopia.

While the number of immigrants from the FSU has dropped, bringing down their suicide rates, the suicide rate among immigrants from Ethiopia has increased since the beginning of the century. Between 2005 and 2007, the suicide rate among male Ethiopian immigrants was six times that of non-immigrants and 3.3 times that of olim from the FSU. Among Ethiopian immigrants aged 15 to 24, the rate was 12.7 times higher.

In 2007, the general suicide rate dropped to 306 people, compared to 400 a year at the end of the 1990s. The rate rose significantly in the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, when immigration from the former Soviet Union was at its height.

Suicide remains more likely among people aged 75 and older, due to serious illness or loneliness. However, suicide rates dropped in all age groups compared to just after 2000. Between 2005 and 2007, some 330 Jews “and others” and 30 Arabs killed themselves in an average year. The gap between Jewish and Arab Israelis is much smaller among young people aged 15 to 24.

During the last three years of the survey, there has been a decline in suicide rates among Jews and others, not including immigrants aged 15 to 24 and people over 75.

Married people were less likely to commit suicide than the unmarried, while divorced men aged 25 to 44 were 6.2 times – and women 1.7 times – more likely to do it than married people. Single men were 3.7 times – and single women 5.2 times – more likely to kill themselves than married people. The Haifa region has the highest suicide rate, whereas Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria have the lowest.

In 2005 to 2007, the most common suicide method (45%) used by men was hanging or choking, whereas a quarter used a weapon. Hanging or choking was used by 34% of the women, while 21% jumped from a high place, 9% used poison and 8% used weapons. There were 4,510 reported suicide attempts in 2008; half of the women and a third of the men who tried to kill themselves were younger than 24.

The ministry said that an interministerial committee to prevent suicide has developed a national program to further its aims, similar to programs existing abroad. The program will work to produce a data bank, identification, diagnosis and development of strategies to prevent suicide, treat those who attempted it and help family members who suffered such a loss. A pilot project was developed for young people, new immigrants and the elderly, and it will be expanded in another year to the rest of the population.

Meanwhile, a second ministry report – on the main causes of death – was also issued for publication on Monday. Since the end of the 1990s, cancer has passed cardiovascular disease as the most common cause of death, with cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) in third place, followed by complications of diabetes and kidney disease and accidents of all kinds. In the US, heart disease remains the top cause of death, followed by cancer.

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