Year: 2021 Source: BMC Public Health. (2021). 21, 1291. Published online 2 July 2021. SIEC No: 20210589

The suicide rate in Canada decreased by 24% during the past four decades. However, rates vary between provinces and territories, and not all jurisdictions experienced the same changes. This study examined suicide rates over time in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We used cross-sectional surveillance data from the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database to examine suicide rates in Newfoundland and Labrador from 1981 to 2018. We calculated annual age-standardized suicide mortality rates and used joinpoint regression to estimate the average annual percent change (AAPC) in suicide rates overall and by sex, age group, and means of suicide.

From 1981 to 2018, 1759 deaths by suicide were recorded among people in Newfoundland and Labrador. The age-standardized suicide mortality rate increased more than threefold over the study period, from 4.6 to 15.4 deaths per 100,000. The suicide rate was higher among males than females, and accounted for 83.1% of suicide deaths (n = 1462); the male-to-female ratio of suicide deaths was 4.9 to 1. The average annual percent change in suicide rates was higher among females than males (6.3% versus 2.0%). Age-specific suicide rates increased significantly for all age groups, except seniors (aged 65 or older); the largest increase was among youth aged 10 to 24 years old (AAPC 3.5; 95% CI, 1.6 to 5.5). The predominant means of suicide was hanging/strangulation/suffocation, which accounted for 43.8% of all deaths by suicide.

The suicide rate in Newfoundland and Labrador increased steadily between 1981 and 2018, which was in contrast to the national rate decline. The disparity between the provincial and national suicide rates and the variations by sex and age underscore the need for a public health approach to prevention that accounts for geographic and demographic differences in the epidemiology of suicide.