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The Relationship between General Population Suicide Rates and the Internet: A Cross-National Study

Authors

  • Ajit Shah MBChB, FRC Psych

    Corresponding author
    1. Professor, Ageing, Ethnicity, and Mental Health at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, and Consultant Psychiatrist, West London Mental Health NHS Trust.
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  • The helpful comments of the anonymous reviewer were greatly appreciated.

West London Mental Health NHS Trust, Uxbridge Road, Southall, Middlesex, UB1 3EU, UK; E-mail: ajit.shah@wlmht.nhs.uk

Abstract

Internet Web sites and chat rooms have been reported both to promote suicides and have a positive beneficial effect on suicidal individuals. There is a paucity of studies examining the role of the Internet in general population suicide rates. The relationship between general population suicide rates and the prevalence of Internet users was examined in a cross-national study using data from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Web sites. The prevalence of Internet users was significantly and positively correlated with general population suicide rates in both sexes. On multiple regression analysis the prevalence of Internet users was independently associated with general population suicide rates in males, and this independent relationship in females approached statistical significance. Caution should be exercised in the attribution of a causal relationship and the direction of this relationship because of the cross-sectional and ecological study design whereby the findings are subject to ecological fallacy. However, the findings identify and support a need for further research.

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