Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Suicide in the Philippines: time trend analysis (1974-2005) and literature review

Maria Theresa Redaniel1*, May Antonnette Lebanan-Dalida2 and David Gunnell1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol, BS8 2PS, UK

2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of the Philippines-Manila, 625 Pedro Gil St, Ermita, Manila, 1000, Philippines

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:536  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-536

Published: 6 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Suicide prevention is given a low priority in many Western Pacific countries due to competing health problems, stigma and poor understanding of its incidence and aetiology. Little is known about the epidemiology of suicide and suicidal behaviour in the Philippines and although its incidence is reported to be low, there is likely to be under-reporting because of its non-acceptance by the Catholic Church and the associated stigma to the family. This study aims to investigate trends in the incidence of suicide in the Philippines, assess possible underreporting and provide information on the methods used and the reasons for suicide.

Methods

Data for suicide deaths occurring between 1974 and 2005 were obtained from Philippine Health Statistics. Age- and sex-specific trends were examined graphically. Underreporting was investigated by comparing trends in suicides, accidents and deaths of undetermined intent. To provide a fuller picture of suicide in the Philippines, a comprehensive search for published papers, theses and reports on the epidemiology of suicide in the Philippines was undertaken.

Results

The incidence of suicide in males increased from 0.23 to 3.59 per 100,000 between 1984 and 2005. Similarly, rates rose from 0.12 to 1.09 per 100,000 in females. Amongst females, suicide rates were highest in 15-24 year olds, whilst in males rates were similar in all age groups throughout the study period. The most commonly used methods of suicide were hanging, shooting and organophosphate ingestion. In non-fatal attempts, the most common methods used were ingestion of drugs, specifically isoniazid and paracetamol, or organophosphate ingestion. Family and relationship problems were the most common precipitants. While rates were lower compared to other countries, there is suggestive evidence of underreporting and misclassification to undetermined injury. Recent increases may reflect either true increase or better reporting of suicides.

Conclusions

While suicide rates are low in the Philippines, increases in incidence and relatively high rates in adolescents and young adults point to the importance of focused suicide prevention programs. Improving data quality and better reporting of suicide deaths is likewise imperative to inform and evaluate prevention strategies.