Q3 – Suicide trend globally

This question was asked to the public in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the UK in the Sustainable Development Misconception Study 2020

In December 2020 Gapminder launches a brand new service for upgrading your worldview, where you will be able to take this (and many other) tests and become certified gapm.io/upgrader


What happened to the global suicide rate in the last 20 years?

a) Decreased about 25%

b) Stayed about the same

c) Increased about 25%

Correct answer

The global suicide rate decreased by more than 25% during the past 20 years.

Fewer take their lives 

More people talk openly about mental health, which is a great step towards removing stigma and increasing awareness. Like with any other problem that historically was a taboo, when we start to talk more about it, we can accidentally get the impression that the problem itself is increasing. But the very fact that we talk about it, may very well be one of the reasons it is decreasing. In all countries, there are large variations in suicide rates and trends for different population groups. 

The rates among women and younger people are generally lower. In almost all high-income countries, the rate among adults went down during recent years, but among teenagers it did not. In a few countries, like the US, the rate has been increasing for most age groups, especially among middle-aged men. Despite these variations, the global decline is clear. 

Suicide is a big public health issue. It’s complex, but some preventions have proven successful to reduce the rate: More access to help-lines; reducing availability of guns and pesticides; better mental health treatment; less access to alcohol; and more responsible media reporting. Much more needs to be done, though, such as reducing the stigma of people with depression and increasing access to adequate psychiatric treatments.

Data sources

According to the IHME Global Burden of Disease, deaths from suicide globally fell from 13.6 per 100,000 in 2000 to 9.8 in 2019 [1]. Many countries underreport suicide and mental health, particularly in the 20 countries where suicide is illegal. Nonetheless, trends are definitely improving globally contrary to popular belief. This was confirmed by three independent researchers of mental health, when we requested their feedback about this question.

Source 1 – Deaths from self harm per 100 thousand people – Global Burden of Disease – Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)

Source 2 – Suicide — Our World In Data

Source 3 – WHO – “Preventing suicide: A global imperative”

Source 4 – WHO’s guidelines for helping people who may be considering suicide