Almost one million people worldwide die by suicide every year, the World Health Organization said Friday, calling for urgent action to address the problem that takes more lives each year than wars and murders combined.
"Data from the WHO indicate that approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds," the UN health organization said in a report published ahead of the World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday.
The agency said that while the number of deaths by suicide is shocking, the number of attempted suicide is 20 times higher, noting that around five percent of people in the world try to kill themselves at least once during their lifetime.
The agency said that the problem is getting worse, saying that "given the magnitude of the public health problem of suicidal behaviours," urgent action was needed." As suicide is largely preventable, it is imperative that governments, through their health, social and other relevant sectors, invest human and financial resources in suicide prevention," the report said.
Experts say that recently suicide rates have risen sharply in some part of the world, with some countries seeing their rates increase by as much as 60 percent. "Although suicide continues to remain a serious problem in high income countries, it is the low and middle income countries that bear the larger part of the global suicide burden," the report said, adding that that these counties are also relatively less equipped to prevent suicide.
Eastern European countries like Lithuania and Russia have the highest documented suicide rates while the lowest suicide rates are in countries in Latin America. Suicide rates in counties in Western Europe and Asia and the United States fell in the middle of the range, but researchers stressed that statistics are not available for many countries in African and South-east Asian.
Suicide is the second cause of death worldwide among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, with at least 100,000 teenagers taking their own lives each year, according to the report.
The WHO said that among adults, the suicide rate is highest among people aged 75 and older. Researchers noted that older adults are likely to have higher suicide intent, use more deadly methods than younger people and are less likely to survive the physical consequences of a suicide attempt.
Statistics from the report revealed that while men were three times more likely to commit suicide, women were three times more likely to attempt suicide compared to men. "The disparity in suicide rates has been partly explained by the use of more lethal means and the experience of more aggression and higher intent to die, when suicidal, in men than women," researchers wrote in the report.