Suicides are an unpleasant reality for everyone, and even a taboo subject in some countries. In Finland, a nation that enjoys an excellent reputation in the world rankings for human development, the high suicide rate is one of the shadows that disfigure the image of the country.
In the past, some experts have argued that one of the reasons Finland has been at the top of suicide rankings for decades is simply because it was one of the first states in the world to produce reliable statistics on this problem.
That explanation may have been valid years ago, but not today, when official bodies admit that suicides are still high in Finland, especially among young people, compared to other European countries.
Even so, there is a downward trend in the number of suicides, with specific exceptions
According to Statistics Finland's study on causes of death, 746 people committed suicide in 2019. This was 64 fewer than in 2018.
The figures show that the number of suicides has decreased relatively since 1990, when more than 1,500 suicides were committed in Finland. In the past ten years, suicide mortality fell by around 30%.
Source: Statistics Finland/Causes of Death.
More men than women
However, this gradual decline was interrupted by a couple of years of upward trend (2016-2017). According to figures published by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), there were 2,400 suicides in Finland between 2016 and 2018, including 1830 men and 570 women. Of these, 56 people were under 18 years of age.
According to Statistics Finland, men's suicide mortality is much higher than women's. Three out of four of the people who committed suicide in 2019 were men. And 570 of the suicides were working-age persons (aged 15-74, according to the classification of the statistical office).
The average age (median) of persons who committed suicide was 47 years for both women and men.
Suicides are a central cause of death for young people in Finland. Among the causes of death for young people aged 15 to 24, the share of suicides was over one third in 2019.
"Among young people, the share of suicides in all causes of death is high because young people’s mortality from other causes is low," Statistics Finland says.
Still, young people's suicide mortality in Finland is high by European comparison. In 2019, there were 109 suicide victims aged under 25, which is 15% of all who committed suicide. Suicide mortality among young women aged under 25 has even increased in ten years.
According to Eurostat's preliminary statistics for 2017, suicide mortality among young people aged 15 to 24 was higher in Finland than in other EU countries. By contrast, for persons aged 65 and over, suicide mortality in Finland has not differed from the EU average in recent years.
In Finland, nearly every fourth person having committed suicide in 2019 had turned 65.
In 2019, suicide mortality or the annual number of suicides per 100,000 population was 14, being 21 for men and 6 for women.