February 13, 2008

Suicide due to characteristics and not location — study
A new study has shown that varying suicide rates across Northern Ireland are due to the types and characteristics of local people and not differences between each location.

Led by Dr Dermot O’Reilly, the research indicated that once individual and household characteristics were taken into account, the higher suicide rates in the more deprived and socially fragmented areas disappeared.

The findings, published in the February 2008 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, could mean a shift of emphasis in policy for those working in the field.

The research involved more than a million people in Northern Ireland and is one of the largest long-term studies of suicide risk undertaken in Britain or Ireland.

Its aim was to determine whether area factors are independently related to suicide risk, after taking into account individual and family/household characteristics.

“Research has confirmed that suicide risk is very strongly related to both individual and household characteristics such as age, gender, marital status and socio-economic circumstances,” said Dr O’Reilly, who is a Senior Lecturer/Consultant in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

“What has been less clear is whether the characteristics of the area in which you live represent an additional independent risk.

“The study shows that variation in suicide rates between areas in Northern Ireland is entirely explained by the differences in the characteristics of the people living in these areas. “Where you live doesn’t add to that risk,” he added.