• suicide;
  • mortality;
  • trends;
  • international;
  • epidemiology

Objective: To analyse trends in mortality from suicide over the period 1965–99.

Method: Data were derived from the WHO database, including data for 47 countries.

Results: In the European Union (EU), all age suicide mortality peaked at 16.1/100 000 in men in 1980–84, and declined thereafter to 14.4/100 000 in 1995–98. In females, the fall was 29% to reach 4.6/100 000. A similar pattern of trends was observed in several eastern European countries. In contrast, mortality from suicide rose substantially in the Russian Federation, from 37.7/100 000 in males in 1985–89 to 58.3/100 000 in 1995–98 (+55%), and to 9.5/100 000 (+12%) in females. In the USA and most other American countries providing data, no consistent pattern was evident for males, but falls were observed in females. Steady declines were registered for Japan, starting from the highest suicide rates worldwide in the late 1950s. Suicide rates were upwards in Ireland, Italy, Spain, the UK, Cuba, Australia and New Zealand. Substantial rises were observed in a few countries (Ireland, Cuba, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand) for young males.

Conclusion: In spite of mixed trends, suicide remains a significant public health problem worldwide.