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Suicide Rates for Various Regions and an Increase in Executive Suicides and Early Deaths Globally

Homicide rates fluctuated from 1960 to 1999 and a decline in homicide rates was evident parallel to a dramatic increase in aggravated assault.  This decline in homicide rates appeared to be attributable to improvements in medical support services and improved trauma care.  The increased availability and sophistication of emergency departments and their improved life-saving techniques in trauma care contributed to the decrease in lethality of crimes.  This decrease in lethality was evident as emergency departments delivered more skilled life-saving treatments to those victimized by violent crime and their rescue efforts resulted in a decreased homicide rate (Harris et al. 56)

Suicide rates varied by region in the United States with the highest rates of suicide in the West at 14.7 suicides per 100,000 people, followed by the South with 13.1 suicides per 100,000 people.  The rates were lower in the Midwest with 10.9 suicides per 100,000 people and the Northeast with 8.6 per 100,000 people.  Suicide was included in the 10 leading causes of death in 1998, at number 8 on the list.  

By 2003, death by Alzheimer disease and septicemia moved up in frequency and suicide was then number 11 in leading causes of death in the United States (Anderson 2).  Even though suicide has moved out of the top ten leading causes of death across all age groups, it continues to be between 2nd and 4th in leading causes of death in those aged 10 to 45 years.

Suicides by firearms varied proportionally by region with the highest proportion in the South at 68.9% of suicides committed with a firearm followed by the West region with 58.3% of deaths by suicide related to the use of a firearm.  The Midwest suicide rate of deaths by firearm was 57.8% and the Northeast rate at 44.9%.  The risk factors associated with suicide deaths by firearm were major depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, suicidal ideation and homicidal ideation, and the presence of firearms in the home (4,5,6,7,8).

The suicide rates were recovered from data abstracted from annual Vital Statistics of the United States reports from 1970 to 1990 and the National Center for Health Statistics annual mortality reports for years 1991 to 2002.

Executive Suicides and Early Deaths

Another segment of the population where suicide has become more apparent is executive suicides and the early deaths of bank employees.  In 2011, South Korea saw a series of executive suicides in which the chairman of local Savings Bank committed suicide by cutting his arms in a hotel room amid investigations over illegal lending and alleged bribery.  At least two other suicides occurred in which an executive of another Savings Bank hung himself and the head of yet another Savings Bank jumped to his death in the South Korean banking sector in just a few months’ time (WSJ).

The American financial sector has been plagued with executive suicides as well in recent years.  In addition to the horrible financial aspects associated with the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and the horrible effects on everyone involved (Business Insider).  In early 2009, a major US Financial Firm CFO committed suicide also hung himself once pressure mounted regarding investor disclosures and amid mounting pressure regarding an upcoming SEC filing related to the financial activities of the lender (Washington Post).  Years earlier in January 2002, an energy executive was found dead in his car after he committed suicide once the investigation into the energy-trading firm started applying pressure on all areas of the company (CNN).

A former Wall Street trader and attorney killed himself upon hearing the guilty verdict in his trial in relation to burning down his mansion.  Once this Yale-educated executive could no longer pay his mortgage, he destroyed his home and at the conclusion of his trial he took cyanide while sitting in the courtroom (Fox 10).  Outside of the financial sector, the co-inventor of the popular game Tetris killed his family before killing himself allegedly due to financial pressure related to the launch of an e-commerce firm he was involved in.

In early 2012, another high profile executive committed suicide by hanging himself in a children’s play area at a Delhi, India luxury apartment building.  This Japanese company was mired in a scandal involving a cover-up of losses of $1.5 billion (AP).  That same year, an attempted executive suicide of the CEO of a Financial Investment Group produced a suicide note in which the executive detailed his embezzlement of millions of dollars from customers.  After surviving the suicide attempt, this executive then had to face authorities regarding the admissions to embezzlement in his suicide note.

In 2014, the managing director of India’s largest automaker committed suicide by jumping from a high-rise hotel room in Bangkok.  Unlike prior examples of incidents involving fraud, this executive suicide came after several difficult years for the automaker and when representatives from the company mention that business conditions were improving and the outlook for the Asia-Africa region this executive was responsible for was positive (Reuters).

In Switzerland, the financial sector was affected by two high-profile executive suicides in the summer of 2013.  The CFO of one of the world’s biggest underwriters hung himself in his family home.  This executive suicide was apparently not connected to any type of financial improprieties but allegedly due to family problems and a difficult working relationship with a board member.  

Weeks before the Zurich Insurance executive suicide, The CEO of Swisscom hung himself (Fortune).  General suicide rates were 12.08 per 100,000 people in the US in 2010 rising from 10.8 per 100,000 people in 2000 (American Assoc. of Suicidology).  When the US rates are compared to Switzerland’s suicide rates, Switzerland’s rate has fallen from 17.2 suicides per 100,000 people in 2000 to 11.1 per 100,000 in 2010 (Eurostat).

A most troubling current trend is the executive suicides and early deaths of bankers employed in the top ranks of global financial institutions.  Not only is the number of banker suicides and untimely deaths in these financial institutions very troubling but also the short window of time in which these shocking deaths took place.  

In just a matter of weeks, a major US financial firm suffered three banker deaths.  In early 2014, a 33 year old employee for the bank jumped from the roof of the Hong Kong headquarters of the firm (scmp.com).  Days earlier, a 37 year old executive director died in his home in Stamford, Connecticut.  In January 2014, bankers at the firm's European headquarters were horrified when a 39 year old Vice President died after falling from the roof of the Bank Street location in the Canary Wharf section of London.  

In late January, a top executive who retired in 2013 was found hanged in his home in the South Kensington section of London on a Sunday (wallstreetonparade.com).  This banker suicide came the day before a whistleblower, a former Bank employee, had a Monday speaking engagement at Auburn University detailing alleged securities violations involving credit derivatives at the bank (auburn.edu).  This speaking engagement was part of a Whistleblower Tour that comes at a time when the bank was under investigation involving the foreign exchange markets and the interest rate benchmark Libor.

Also in January 2014, the 50 year old chief economist at another US firm died from an apparent suicide in Washington State.  The Pierce County Sheriff’s office stated that after falling from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the economist was found dead at the base of an embankment (bizjournals.com).  Before joining this firm, this chief economist worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.


US Suicide Rates by Age Group, 1970-2002: An Examination of Recent Trends American Journal of Public Health, October 2006

2. Anderson RN. Deaths: leading causes for 2000. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2002 Sep 16; 50:1-85

4. Bent DA, Perper JA, Allman CJ, Moritz GM, Wartella ME, Zelanek JP. The presence and accessibility of firearms in the home of adolescent suicides: a case-control study. JAMA 1991;266:2989-2995.

5. Kellerman AL, Rivara FP, Somes G, et al. Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership. New Engl J Med. 1992;327:467-472.

6. Brent DA, Perper JA, Moritz G, et al. Psychiatric risk factors for adolescent suicide: a case-control study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1993;32:521-529.

7. Shaffer D, Gould MS, Fisher P, et al. Psychiatric diagnosis in child and adolescent suicide. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996;53:339-348.

8. Conwell Y, Duberstein P. Suicide in elders. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001;932:132-147.

56. Harris A, Thomas S, Fisher G, Hirsch D. Murder and medicine; the lethality of criminal assault 1960-1999. Homicide Stud. 2002;6:128-166.

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