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Suicide and self-harm in recent immigrants in Ontario, Canada: a population-based study


Objective — To estimate the rates of suicide and self-harm among recent immigrants and to determine which immigrant-specific risk factors are associated with these outcomes.

Methods — Population-based cohort study using linked health administrative data sets (2003 to 2017) in Ontario, Canada which included adults ≥18 years, living in Ontario (N = 9,055,079). The main exposure was immigrant status (long-term resident vs. recent immigrant). Immigrant-specific exposures included visa class and country of origin. Outcome measures were death by suicide or emergency department visit for self-harm. Cox proportional hazards estimated adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results — We included 590,289 recent immigrants and 8,464,790 long-term residents. Suicide rates were lower among immigrants (n = 130 suicides, 3.3/100,000) than long-term residents (n = 6,354 suicides, 11.8/100,000) with aHR 0.3, 95% CI, 0.2 to 0.3. Male–female ratios in suicide rates were attenuated in immigrants. Refugees had 2.1 (95% CI, 1.3 to 3.6; rate 6.1/100,000) and 2.8 (95% CI, 2.5 to 3.2) times the likelihood of suicide and self-harm, respectively, compared with nonrefugee immigrants. Self-harm rate was lower among immigrants (n = 2,256 events, 4.4/10,000) than long-term residents (n = 68,039 events, 9.7/10,000 person-years; aHR 0.3; 95% CI, 0.3 to 0.3). Unlike long-term residents, where low income was associated with high suicide rates, income was not associated with suicide among immigrants and there was an attenuated income gradient for self-harm. Country of origin-specific analyses showed wide ranges in suicide rates (1.4 to 9.9/100,000) and self-harm (1.8 to 14.9/10,000).

Conclusion — Recent immigrants have lower rates of suicide and self-harm and different sociodemographic predictors compared with long-term residents. Analysis of contextual factors including immigrant class, origin, and destination should be considered for all immigrant suicide risk assessment.



Saunders NR, Chiu M, Lebenbaum M, Chen S, Kurdyak P, Guttmann A, Vigod S. Can J Psychiatry. 2019; 64(11):777-88. Epub 2019 Jun 24.

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