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What are risk factors for suicide?

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As well as being male, several other risk factors for suicide have been identified:

  • Age: Suicide in men peaks in the 20s and again in the 60s and 70s.
  • Unemployment: The suicide rate has been shown to rise and fall with the unemployment rate in a number of countries – half of the record 33,000 people who committed suicide in Japan in 1999 were unemployed.
  • Social isolation: Those who kill themselves often live alone and have little contact with others; they may have been recently widowed or have never married.
  • Chronic illness: Any chronic illness increases the risk of suicide.
  • Certain occupations: People with certain occupations are more likely to die by suicide, for example farmers (who usually work alone, may be unmarried and have access to the means of suicide, such as a shotgun or poisonous weedkiller).

Many of the above risk factors affect men more than women. It is important to remember that many people are subject to these factors, but only a tiny minority of them will end their own lives.

Other factors are also significant. The most important risk factor is the presence of a mental illness. The most important protective factor is the presence of good support from family or friends.


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