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Study shows suicide and self-injury rates on the rise in Brazil


Mariana Sebastião (Cidacs/Fiocruz Bahia)


The suicide rate among young people grew by 6% a year in Brazil between 2011 and 2022. In turn, notification rates for self-injuries in the 10-24 age group increased by 29% every year in the same period. The figure was higher compared to the general population, whose suicide rate grew by an average of 3.7% a year and self-injury by 21% a year over the same period. These results were found in the analysis of a set of nearly 1 million data points, disclosed in a study recently published in The Lancet Regional Health - Americas, developed by the Center for the Integration of Data and Knowledge for Health (Cidacs/Fiocruz Bahia), in collaboration with Harvard researchers.

The suicide rate among young people grew by 6% a year in Brazil between 2011 and 2022 (Olgar23/Envato Elements)

"Self-injury notification rates increased consistently in all regions of Brazil in the period we analyzed. This also happened with the general suicide rate, which grew by an average of 3.7% a year," explains Flávia Jôse Alves, a researcher at Cidacs/Fiocruz and leader of the investigation. To reach their conclusions, the team analyzed data from the Mortality Information System (SIM), the Hospital Information System (SIH) and the Notifiable Diseases Information System (Sinan).

Global reduction, but increase in the Americas

Despite the 36% reduction in the number of suicides on a global scale, the Americas have gone the other way. Between 2000 and 2019, the region saw a 17% increase in cases. During this period, the number of cases in Brazil rose by 43%.

As to cases of self-injury in Brazil, the Cidacs/Fiocruz research found that, in 2022, there was an increase in notification rates in all age groups, from 10 to over 60 years old.

The research also assessed the number of suicides and self-injuries in relation to race and ethnicity in the country during this period. While there is an annual increase in notification rates for these self-inflicted injuries in all the categories analyzed – indigenous, mixed race, of Asian descent, black and white – the number of notifications is higher among the indigenous population, reaching over 100 cases per 100,000 people.

"Even with the highest number of notifications, the indigenous population had the lowest hospitalization rates. This strongly suggests that this population has barriers to access to urgent and emergency services. There are differences between the demand for hospital beds and who can access them, which can result in intervention delays," says the researcher.

Stability in the COVID-19 pandemic

With the changing dynamics in social relations during the COVID-19 pandemic, discussions about mental disorders such as anxiety and depression have gained strength. However, according to Flávia Jôse, the number of suicides has remained on an upward trend over time and has not changed during the pandemic. "Despite being one of the countries most affected by the pandemic, other research has already reported that suicide rates in the period remained stable. The main thing here is that, regardless of the pandemic, the rates have persistently increased over time," she explains.

Multifactorial risks and necessary policies

According to the researchers, having quality data available is a key strategy for preventing and monitoring suicide. Access to this data is still a major problem worldwide, whether due to stigma or legal issues: "Brazil is ahead in this regard, as it has three different databases with this information, and they can be used to reveal evidence that we might not see when analyzing a single database," says Flávia.

Previous Cidacs/Fiocruz studies have already associated the increase in the number of suicides with the rise in social inequalities and poverty and with the growth in the prevalence of mental disorders, which have a direct impact on health services, in addition to reporting variations in the rates concerning each region. According to Flávia, the current study emphasized the importance of more policies and interventions: "We are reinforcing the need for more suicide prevention strategies by bringing these results," she concludes.

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