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Sex differences in suicides among children and youth – the potential impact of misclassification

Rhodes AE, Khan S, Boyle MH, Wekerle C, Goodman D, Tonmyr L, Bethell J, Leslie B, Manion I. Can J Public Health. 2012; 103(3):213-7.


Objectives — The researchers examined whether established sex differences in suicide rates persist when adjustments are made for potential misclassification of deaths in children and youth.

Methods — This is a retrospective, descriptive study of 1294 suicides, 961 accidental and 254 undetermined deaths occurring between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2007, among persons aged 10 to 25 years in Ontario, Canada. Using data from Coroner’s records, causes of death were reclassified based on two different misclassification criteria. Actual and reclassified suicide rates were calculated by sex and age group (with 95% confidence intervals) and by year of death.

Results — Males aged 16-25 years accounted for the majority of suicides (68.9%). Asphyxia was the most common cause of suicide in both sexes. While suicides by shooting were almost exclusive to males, suicides due to alcohol/drug toxicity were significantly higher in females. Both before and after reclassification of suicide deaths, sex differences in suicide rates emerged in the 16-25 years age group. In each study year, both actual and reclassified suicide rates were higher in males than females.

Conclusions — Sex differences in suicide rates emerging in adolescence are unlikely to be due to misclassification. Other proposed explanations for sex differences in youth suicide rates should be investigated further.

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Keywords: Suicide

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