Attempted suicide among immigrants in European countries: An international perspective

Cendrine Bursztein Lipsicas, Ilkka Henrik Makinen, Alan Apter, Diego De Leo, Ad Kerkhof, Jouko Lönnqvist, Konrad Michel, Ellinor Salander Renberg, Isik Sayil, Armin Schmidtke, Cornelis Van Heeringen, Airi Värnik, Danuta Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose This study compares the frequencies of attempted suicide among immigrants and their hosts, between different immigrant groups, and between immigrants and their countries of origin. Methods The material, 27,048 persons, including 4,160 immigrants, was obtained from the WHO/EURO Multi- centre Study on Suicidal Behaviour, the largest available European database, and was collected in a standardised manner from 11 European centres in 1989-2003. Person-based suicide-attempt rates (SARs) were calculated for each group. The larger immigrant groups were studied at each centre and compared across centres. Completed- suicide rates of their countries of origin were compared to the SARs of the immigrant groups using rank correlations. Results 27 of 56 immigrant groups studied showed significantly higher, and only four groups significantly lower SARs than their hosts. Immigrant groups tended to have similar rates across different centres. Moreover, positive correlation between the immigrant SAR and the country-of-origin suicide rate was found. However, Chileans, Iranians, Moroccans, and Turks displayed high SARs as immigrants despite low suicide rates in the home countries. Conclusions The similarity of most immigrant groups' SARs across centres, and the correlation with suicidality in the countries of origin suggest a strong continuity that can be interpreted in either cultural or genetic terms. However, the generally higher rates among immigrants compared to host populations and the similarity of the rates of foreign- born and those immigrants who retained the citizenship of their country of origin point to difficulties in the acculturation and integration process. The positive correlation found between attempted and completed suicide rates suggests that the two are related, a fact with strong implications for suicide prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-251
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Europe
  • Migration
  • Suicide
  • Suicide attempt


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