TRAMES 1, 4, 2000


Airi Värnik

Estonian-Swedish Institute of Suicidology and University of Tartu

Liina-Mai Tooding

University of Tartu

Ene Palo Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs

Danuta Wasserman

Swedish National and Stockholm County Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the National Institute for Psychosocial Factors and Health, Sweden

Abstract. Three Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - have besides Russia the highest registered suicide rates in the world. The study period is divided into two subperiods that are, in social terms, fairly disparate: stagnation in the former USSR 1970-84, and political reforms in 1985-97. Overall suicide trends in all three Baltic States are similar. A slight rise in the stagnation period was succeeded by an S-shaped profile, i.e. marked fall-rise-fall, in the reform period. The highest suicide rates (41.0-46.4 per 100,000 inhabitants) in the whole period were recorded in the reform period, in the years 1993-96. Overall linear trends over time differ slightly, however, in the three countries, the weakest being in Estonia and the strongest in Lithuania. Male and female trends are parallel, and the male-female ratio is roughly 4-5:1. Changes in suicide trends coincided with changes in social conditions. The greater fluctuations in suicide rates for male compared with women indicate a possible greater sensitivity among men to factors that affected suicide rates in the Baltic States.

Key words: Suicide, epidemiology, social changes, Baltic States, 1970-97.

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