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Press Release: Report Provides New Insights into Suicide

Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts by Oregonians

Press Release:
November 24, 1997
Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 503-731-4180
Technical Contacts:
David Hopkins, Research Analyst, 971-673-1162
Grant Higginson, M.D., 503-731-4829

Report Provides New Insights into Suicide

(PORTLAND) " Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts by Oregonians," a newly released Oregon Health Division report, provides a first of its kind, in-depth examination of suicide in Oregon.

The study is based upon 1994 data gathered from the Health Services's adult Behavior Risk Factor Survey and from death certificates. It describes not only the characteristics of Oregonians who have committed suicide, but provides additional, new analysis of the behaviors and demographic characteristics of others who have seriously considered suicide.

Oregon is the first state in the nation to use this survey to examine how prevalent the thought of suicide is among Oregonians, says Grant Higginson, M.D, State Health Officer. "Information presented in this report explores many aspects of suicide behavior. It also casts new light on some of our commonly held assumptions," he states.

According to the report, Oregon's suicide rate has climbed over the past several decades. For nine of the past ten years, Oregon's suicide rate has exceeded the nation's by at least 25 percent; in 1994 the state's rate was 42 percent higher than the national rate. Other findings:

  • Oregonians were three times more likely to commit suicide than be murdered.

  • Over the past decade, the death rate for suicides caused by firearms has increased more than four times faster than the rate for other methods, and most suicides (62 percent) were committed with guns.

  • Residents who lived in coastal counties or east of the Cascade Mountains were both more likely to consider suicide and to commit suicide than those living in other areas of the state.

  • High school drop-outs were five times more likely to consider suicide than were college graduates (5.6 percent versus 1.2 percent).

  • Oregonians who smoked were twice as likely as those who had never smoked to consider suicide (4.5 percent versus 2.3 percent).

  • Persons with poor mental health or poor physical health were more likely to seriously consider suicide.

  • Those living in households with less than $10,000 annual income were eight times more likely to seriously consider suicide than those living in households with an income of $35,000 or more.

  • Suicides were committed more often during January, the first week of the month, Mondays, and the morning hours.

  • Males, children and the elderly more often used immediately lethal methods.

The report shows there are contrasts between those who consider suicide and those who actually complete the act. Although females were 1.3 times more likely than males to consider suicide, males were 3.9 times more likely to complete the act. And, although Oregonians 18-24 years old were 9.4 times more likely to report having suicidal thoughts, those 65 years or older were 2.2 times more likely to actually commit suicide. Similarities also exist; residents who were married, attended college and lived in non-coastal areas of western Oregon were less likely to consider suicide or to complete suicide.

According to the report, nearly two of every three suicides were committed with firearm, and most of these were with handguns. "Firearms are usually lethal and require very little planning, so a suicide involving a gun may be an impulsive act, with no opportunity to turn back. It is critical that if guns are present in a home, safety precautions must be in place to ensure safety for family members or visitors. Firearms should be stored unloaded, separated from ammunition, and locked away," Higginson said.

Anyone interested obtaining the complete printed report should call the Health Services's Center for Health Statistics at 971-673-1180.