Open Access Open Badges Research article

Spatial clusters of suicide in the municipality of São Paulo 1996–2005: an ecological study

Daniel H Bando1, Rafael S Moreira2, Julio CR Pereira3 and Ligia V Barrozo4*

Author affiliations

1 University Hospital, University of São Paulo Medical School, São Paulo, Brazil

2 Department of Public Health, Aggeu Magalhães Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Ministry of Health, Recife, Brazil

3 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

4 Department of Geography, School of Philosophy, Literature and Human Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

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Citation and License

BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:124  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-124

Published: 23 August 2012



In a classical study, Durkheim mapped suicide rates, wealth, and low family density and realized that they clustered in northern France. Assessing others variables, such as religious society, he constructed a framework for the analysis of the suicide, which still allows international comparisons using the same basic methodology. The present study aims to identify possible significantly clusters of suicide in the city of São Paulo, and then, verify their statistical associations with socio-economic and cultural characteristics.


A spatial scan statistical test was performed to analyze the geographical pattern of suicide deaths of residents in the city of São Paulo by Administrative District, from 1996 to 2005. Relative risks and high and/or low clusters were calculated accounting for gender and age as co-variates, were analyzed using spatial scan statistics to identify geographical patterns. Logistic regression was used to estimate associations with socioeconomic variables, considering, the spatial cluster of high suicide rates as the response variable. Drawing from Durkheim’s original work, current World Health Organization (WHO) reports and recent reviews, the following independent variables were considered: marital status, income, education, religion, and migration.


The mean suicide rate was 4.1/100,000 inhabitant-years. Against this baseline, two clusters were identified: the first, of increased risk (RR = 1.66), comprising 18 districts in the central region; the second, of decreased risk (RR = 0.78), including 14 districts in the southern region. The downtown area toward the southwestern region of the city displayed the highest risk for suicide, and though the overall risk may be considered low, the rate climbs up to an intermediate level in this region. One logistic regression analysis contrasted the risk cluster (18 districts) against the other remaining 78 districts, testing the effects of socioeconomic-cultural variables. The following categories of proportion of persons within the clusters were identified as risk factors: singles (OR = 2.36), migrants (OR = 1.50), Catholics (OR = 1.37) and higher income (OR = 1.06). In a second logistic model, likewise conceived, the following categories of proportion of persons were identified as protective factors: married (OR = 0.49) and Evangelical (OR = 0.60).


This risk/ protection profile is in accordance with the interpretation that, as a social phenomenon, suicide is related to social isolation. Thus, the classical framework put forward by Durkheim seems to still hold, even though its categorical expression requires re-interpretation.