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French Women Twice as Likely to Attempt Suicide than French Men

In Health, Society on December 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

It was reported last week that in a survey of 27,000 French people aged 15-85, 5.5% admitted to already having attempted suicide at some point in their lives. The report was published by the Bulletin épidémiologique hebdomadaire [BEH] (Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin), which also added that more than 10,400 people die from committing suicide every year in France. It was also revealed that French women were twice as likely as French men to attempt suicide and the most likely period for women to attempt suicide was between 15-19. So why is it that French women in particular account for twice as many suicide attempts than French men?

TF1 accounts for the disproportionately high numbers of women attempting suicide by estimating that men are more likely to commit suicide using more violent methods than women (which are therefore more ‘successful’). In 2009, of the more than 10,400 deaths by suicide in France, 75% were men and only 25% were women. Thus, women are more likely to survive suicide attempts, which is why the survey may have recorded a disproportionately high percent of female suicide attempts.

However, when looking at mental health statistics, specifically depression rates, there seems to be correlation between suicide rates. A paper published by l’INSEE revealed that in 2003, among French people in the île-de-France, women were twice as likely as men to be depressed. The paper also mentions that comparing profession, age, family and professional situations between mean and women like-for-like, women were still twice as likely as men to be seriously depressed.

No links are made in the press between mental health, specifically depression rates and suicide attempt rates. Furthermore, there is no suggestion of how to prevent more suicide attempts. Dr. Jean-Louis Terra, in TF1, describes the findings as “one more piece of the puzzle which aims to better understand this daily shattering catastrophe.”  (une pièce de plus au puzzle qui vise à mieux connaître cette catastrophe en miettes et quotidienne). There is more research needed to link cause and effect if France is to prevent more suicides and thoroughly explain the disproportionate numbers of women affected.

For more information on the statistics see the INSEE report here, the TF1 article here and the Liberation article here

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