Suicide is higher among socially fragmented rather than deprived populations

Ecological study of social fragmentation, poverty and suicide

People living in areas which have high levels of social fragmentation [area where people live for short periods of time, where the proportion of people living alone or in rented accommodation is high and with large numbers of unmarried people] have higher rates of suicide than those living in poor areas, suggest researchers from Bristol in this weeks BMJ.

In their study of 633 parliamentary constituencies in Great Britain, Dr Elise Whitley and colleagues from the University of Bristol found that in the 1980s and 1990s those constituencies with high levels of social fragmentation had high rates of suicide. Moreover, constituencies which experienced the greatest increases in social fragmentation between 1981 and 1991 tended to have the greatest increases in suicide rates over the same period, say the authors, although this effect was not seen in older people.

Whitley et al found that nine of the ten most socially fragmented areas of Great Britain are London boroughs. The authors say that living in a socially fragmented area was more strongly associated with suicide risk than poverty in men and women of all ages, report Whitley el al. However, they also found that for all other causes of death, levels of deprivation were more strongly associated.

The authors conclude that any targeting of suicide prevention may be more effective if aimed at socially fragmented rather than deprived areas. They also suggest that research is needed to examine the underlying causes of social fragmentation, in order to assist those making social policy decisions relating to these issues.


Contact: Jill Shepherd
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Page: 1

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