Suicide in Alaska
In 2003 the age-adjusted suicide rate in Alaska (20.2 per 100,000) was the second highest in the country and nearly twice that of the U.S. all races population. The suicide rate among Alaska’s Native population (35.1 per 100,000) was 1.7 times greater than the rate among all Alaskans and 3.3 times greater than the U.S. all races rate. This retrospective case-control study examined suicide among Alaska Native males living in a northern Alaska region, in an attempt to identify the frequency and nature of contact with medical staff during the 12 months preceding the cases’ suicides. Results show that during the last year of life, cases were 2.75 times as likely to have any contact with medical staff, they were 3.29 times as likely to be treated for an injury, and were 22.18 times as likely to be treated for an alcohol-related event than were the matched controls.
A manual and computer search of Alaska Native death certificates for firearm-related fatalities from 1990-1992 was conducted. During this three-year period, 116 Alaska Natives lost their lives due to firearm injuries; 88 (76%) of these deaths were suicides. Firearms were the leading cause of injury death for Alaska Natives during this study period. Ninety-two percent of the victims were male, with nearly half of the deaths occurring between the ages of 20-29. Contributing factors and potential solutions are discussed.
There were two goals for the study: (1) to do an in-depth demographic analysis of the suicides in Alaska for three years from September 1, 2003 through August 31, 2006 and (2) to conduct interviews with key informants for as many suicide cases as possible. This report is divided into two sections, Section 1 addressing the epidemiological data and Section 2 addressing the data derived from the interviews. The purpose of the data gathering, reporting, and analysis was to better understand the etiology and antecedents of suicide among Alaskans, in order to identify potential points of intervention and strategies to reduce the rate of suicide.
In 2002, nearly 32,000 people took their own lives in the United States, and estimates indicate that 20 times that number sought treatment for self-inflicted injuries. Alaska had the highest age adjusted suicide rate of all the states in 2002 at 21.12, which is nearly double the U.S. rate of 10.99 per 100,000 population. An average of 125 people die from suicide each year in Alaska, making it the number one cause of death for Alaskans under the age of 50 years (if unintentional injuries are examined individually instead of grouped). The epidemiology for suicide deaths is very different from the epidemiology for suicidal acts that result in hospitalization. This analysis looks at the epidemiology and costs associated with hospitalizations for self inflicted injuries.