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The socio-environmental determinants of railway suicide: a systematic review

Lay San Too1*, Allison Milner2, Lyndal Bugeja1 and Roderick McClure1

Author Affiliations

1 Monash Injury Research Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia

2 McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-20

Published: 10 January 2014



Railway suicide has significant adverse impacts for the victims, their family and friends, witnesses to the incident, general public and train network. There is no previous review on the socio-environmental factors and railway suicide. The research question asked in this review was: ‘What socio-environmental risk and protective predictors are significantly associated with railway suicide?’


The review searched Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science and Scopus for English-language studies that assessed the associations between socio-environmental (i.e. geographical, physical, economic and social) factors and railway suicide from their inception to June 2013. It was reported based on the PRISMA Statement.


Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. They were categorised into railway environments (availability of railways and trains, accessibility to railways and familiarity with trains), population characteristics and impact of media reporting. Findings from ecological studies using population level railway suicide data suggested weak and inconsistent evidence for the first two categories. The evidence on the impact of media reporting was moderately strong, with irresponsible media reporting being associated with an increased risk of railway suicide.


There is a need for further research activity to strengthen evidence about socio-environmental risk factors for railway suicide. The focus of this research should be on the factors that determine individuals’ decisions of using the railway as a method of suicide, with the consideration of a range of geographical, physical, social, and economic factors.