Urban and rural suicide differentials in migrants and the Australian-born, New South Wales, Australia 1985—1994

S Morrell, R Taylor, E Slaytor, P Ford
Social Science & Medicine 1999, 49 (1): 81-91
We estimated risk of suicide in adults in New South Wales (NSW) by sex, country of birth and rural/urban residence, after adjusting for age; we also examined youth suicide (age 15-24 years). The study population was the entire population of NSW, Australia, aged > or =15 years during the period 1985-1994. Poisson regression was used to examine the relationship between predictor variables and the risk of suicide, with the focus on migrant status and area of residence. A significantly higher risk of suicide was found in male migrants from Northern Europe and Eastern Europe/former USSR, compared to Australian-born males; a significantly lower suicide risk occurred in males from Southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In female migrants, those from UK/Eire, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe/former USSR and New Zealand exhibited a significantly higher risk of suicide compared to Australian-born females. A significantly lower risk of suicide occurred in females from the Middle East. Male migrants overall were at significantly lower risk of suicide than the Australian-born, while female migrants overall had a significantly higher risk of suicide than Australian-born females. Among migrant males overall, the rural-urban suicide risk differential was significantly higher for those living in non-metropolitan areas (RR = 1.9; 95% CI: 1.7-2.1). Suicide risk was significantly higher in non-metropolitan male immigrants from the UK/Eire (RR = 1.4; 95% CI: 1.1-1.7), Southern Europe (RR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.2-2.4), Northern/Western Europe (1.5; 95% CI: 1.2-1.9), the Middle East (RR = 3.8; 95% CI: 1.9-7.8), New Zealand (RR = 1.4; 95% CI: 1.0-1.8) and 'other' (RR = 2.6; 95% CI: 1.9-3.5), when compared to their urban counterparts. There was no statistically significant difference in suicide risk between rural and urban Australian-born males. For female suicide, significantly lower risk was found in female immigrants living in non-metropolitan areas who were from Northern/Western Europe (RR = 0.7; 95% CI: 0.4-0.96), as well as the Australian-born (RR = 0.7; 95% CI: 0.6-0.8), when compared to their urban counterparts. The non-metropolitan/metropolitan relative risk for suicide in female migrants overall was not significantly different from one. Among male youth there was a significantly higher suicide risk in non-metropolitan areas, with a relative risk estimate of 1.4 for Australian-born youth (95% CI: 1.2-1.5) and 1.7 for migrant youth (95% CI: 1.2-2.4), when compared with metropolitan counterparts. We conclude that suicide among migrant males living in non-metropolitan areas accounts for most of the excess of male suicide in rural NSW, and the significantly lower risk of suicide for non-metropolitan Australian-born women does not apply to migrant women.

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