At the end of 2015, suicide rates rated as high were recorded in 37 of the 85 regions.Shutterstock / Legion-Media
Some official figures do show a glimmer of light. The number of suicides recorded in Russia has fallen for the 14th consecutive year, data published by the Russian statistical agency Rosstat for 2015 reveals.
There were a total of 24,982 suicides in the country in 2015, which is 6.2 percent less than the number in 2014.
According to the statistical records for the period from 1956, this is the lowest figure in 50 years (Earlier in the USSR, statistics of suicides were kept only in selected cities.)
Alcohol and standard of living the key factors
Analysts link the number of suicides to the availability of alcohol in Russia and the quality of life.
After Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise to power in 1985 and the beginning of the anti-alcohol campaign, the number of suicides fell by almost 40 percent within a couple of years, but rose again from the late 1980s because of the country's deteriorating socio-economic situation.
The collapse of the USSR, market reforms, the war in Chechnya and falling incomes among the population resulted in an increase in suicide mortality, reaching peak levels in 1994-1995.
More than 60,000 people a year committed suicide in Russia at that time. The suicide rate per 100,000 individuals – 41 – was twice the level characterized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a high suicide rate (20 or more per 100,000 people).
Since 2002, however, the number of suicides has been reducing again every year. By 2010, the suicide rate had decreased to the level of the mid-1980s, when the anti-alcohol campaign was at its peak in the Soviet Union. The suicide rate finally fell to the average level by WHO standards (less than 20 per 100,000 people) in 2014.
Situation in the regions
Incredibly, the rate of suicides per 100,000 people is 90 times higher in the Altai Republic, the region with the highest level of suicide mortality (54.1), than in Chechnya, where the rate is just 0.6.
Suicide rates rated as high were recorded in 37 of the 85 regions in 2015. These are, above all, the regions in the north, the Urals, Siberia and Russia's Far East. The worst places were the Altai Republic, the Trans-Baikal Territory, the Jewish Autonomous Region, Buryatia and the Nenets Autonomous Region.
Eighteen regions have a suicide rate classified as low. This category includes Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a few areas in the south and the Islamic republics of the North Caucasus.
International suicide statistics 2012. Source: WHO
How does Russia compare to world statistics?
According to a study by the World Health Organisation, the age-standardized suicide rate per 100,000 people was highest in 2012 in Guyana (44.2), followed by South Korea (28.9), Sri Lanka (28.8), Lithuania (28.2) and Suriname (27.8). Russia ranked in 14th place (19.5).
First published in Russian in RBC.
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