Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Suicide rates for White Americans have likely surpassed that of Japan in 2015.

(Consider this a follow-up on my last post, with updated data.)

Back in April 22 CDC released a study which found that the suicide rate in the US reached a 30-year high in 2014. This finding received extensive media commentary. Long story short, age-adjusted suicide rates increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014. The rates were 10.5 in 1999 and 13.0 in 2014.

What was also found was that the age-adjusted suicide rates for non-Hispanic whites were significantly higher than the national average. As they stated their source for most of the data to be the CDC WONDER database, I went to the site to collect some specific data on suicide rate trends for the non-Hispanic white population. Here is what I found:

Year
Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the rightDeathsClick to sort by Deaths ascendingClick to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the leftPopulationClick to sort by Population ascendingClick to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the leftAge Adjusted Rate Per 100,000Click to sort by Age Adjusted Rate Per 100,000 ascendingClick to sort by Age Adjusted Rate Per 100,000 descending
199924,534197,154,11812.0
200024,616197,324,68412.0
200125,813197,842,67112.5
200226,691198,101,98212.9
200326,434198,289,48612.7
200427,001198,619,90313.0
200527,305198,880,98413.0
200627,952199,200,39613.3
200728,897199,492,42113.7
200830,281199,783,79714.3
200930,813199,993,07914.5
201032,010200,127,37215.0
201133,031200,423,24315.5
201233,727200,698,84715.7
201334,253200,918,51315.9
201435,398201,048,79316.4
Total468,7563,187,900,28913.9


Note that the rate is age-adjusted; the actual crude rates are somewhat higher. In any case, suicide rates for the non-Hispanic white population appears to have increased by about 36.7% since 1999, and is, as of 2014, 16.4 per 100,000 people. Moreover, the trend seems to be upward. Thus I'll be assuming that the rate 2015 is about the same as the 2014 rate.

How about Japan? In 2012, their age-adjusted suicide rate was 18.5 per 100,000 according to the World Health Organization (the actual crude rate is higher due to the relatively large share of elderly Japanese, who also happen to be a very suicide-prone age-group). The actual number of suicides appears to be 27,766 for the year, which is, as the article states, a decline from the year before when the number exceeded 30,000 (the peak was 34,427 in 2003). And it appears the decline hasn't stopped yet, as the number of suicides dropped to 23,971 in 2015, the lowest it has been since 1997.

Now, what does this translate into in actual suicide rates? We know that the actual number of suicides have declined by approx. 13.7% between 2012 and 2015. Meanwhile, the Japanese population appears to have shrunk by 0.4%. This gives an age-adjusted suicide rate of about 16.0 per 100,000 for 2015, assuming similar age demographics and distribution of suicides across age groups. Likely the share of elderly share Japanese increased slightly in these three years, which should imply a slightly lower age-adjusted suicide rate relative to the crude rates, compared to the 2012 figures. In conclusion, the per 100,000 2015 age-adjusted suicide rate for Japan (16.0) appears to be slightly lower than the 2014 age-adjusted suicide rate for non-Hispanic white Americans (16.4). There is no data on the 2015 suicide rate for non-Hispanic whites, but given the 15-year trend I don't expect the rate to be lower than the 2014 rate, and as such slightly higher than the Japanese rates.

This is an interesting development for non-Hispanic whites. After all, Japan is widely known as one of the countries with the highest suicide rates, which has become very much a national stereotype in the West, and is seen as one of the most negative aspects of Japan.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Youth suicide rates lower in Japan than in Canada, Australia



Data is from the OECD.

It should also be apparent by now that, as far as America goes, the suicide rate for non-Hispanic whites is higher than the national average. Moreover it has increased since 1999 according to CDC WONDER:

Year
Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the rightDeathsClick to sort by Deaths ascendingClick to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the leftPopulationClick to sort by Population ascendingClick to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the leftCrude Rate Per 100,000Click to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 ascendingClick to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 descending
19992,83024,695,11011.5
20002,86824,811,45511.6
20012,92625,297,12311.6
20022,95125,542,64611.6
20032,83225,707,89111.0
20043,04525,882,37311.8
20052,99225,979,53411.5
20062,94425,972,82311.3
20072,93225,894,62311.3
20083,02525,750,99611.7
20093,04625,563,15511.9
20103,19025,356,57412.6
20113,41325,234,54313.5
20123,34725,143,72013.3
20133,38824,988,24413.6
20143,49524,782,67514.1

The data for this sloppily pasted table shows mortality rates for suicides only, for non-Hispanic whites aged 15-24. For all races the rate was 11.5 in 2014, with no clear trend for the 1999-2014 time period (not posting that table here). In any case, the youth suicide rate for non-Hispanic white Americans is no doubt higher than for Japanese youths, and the trend is up for both groups.

For the country as a whole, Japan does have a higher suicide rate than most other developed countries, but this is no doubt skewed higher by the age composition of the country; Japan has the largest share of elderly people as a percentage of the total population of any other country. And older people commit more suicide than the younger people.

Anyway, when the PISA 2015 results are released in December this year, expect more praise for the Finnish education system and cautioning against the education system in Japan based on its "high suicide rates". Never mind that Finland has a higher youth suicide rate than Japan, which should be a more relevant comparison than comparing suicide rates for people aged 45+ when discussing education systems.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Case and Deaton wrong; mortality rates increased for younger non-Hispanic white age groups as well [UPDATED]

Many have probably heard by now about the Case and Deaton publication, which documents an increase in all-cause mortality among non-Hispanic white aged 45-54, which supposedly goes against the trend for other racial groups and other countries, within that age group.

However, this is incorrect. The fact is that all-cause mortality rates have increased for age groups 25-34 and 35-44 as well, for non-Hispanic whites. How do I know this? By checking the same data that Case and Deaton cited in their paper, the CDC WONDER. The CDC WONDER is stated to be the source used to document the changes in white midlife mortality in their publication. Yet in the same publication, they state:

"The focus of this paper is on changes in mortality and morbidity for those aged 45–54. However, as Fig. 4 makes clear, all 5-y age groups between 30–34 and 60–64 have witnessed marked and similar increases in mortality from the sum of drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis over the period 1999–2013; the midlife group is different only in that the sum of these deaths is large enough that the common growth rate changes the direction of all-cause mortality."

Their publication thus suggests that mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites did not increase for any age group other than the 45-54 age group. However, this is what I found in the CDC WONDER database. Here is the change in mortality rates per 100,000 people for non-Hispanic whites, among the 25-34 age group:

Year
Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the rightDeathsClick to sort by Deaths ascendingClick to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the leftPopulationClick to sort by Population ascendingClick to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the leftCrude Rate Per 100,000Click to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 ascendingClick to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 descending
199923,98626,264,71391.3
200023,19125,735,24490.1
200124,19125,009,12896.7
200223,75824,581,49896.6
200323,55724,227,13797.2
200423,39723,954,18597.7
200523,82623,668,541100.7
200624,60623,508,119104.7
200724,75723,533,841105.2
200824,85223,740,364104.7
200925,20323,983,625105.1
201025,48624,143,320105.6
201126,75424,519,007109.1
201227,26624,744,491110.2
201327,58324,969,763110.5
The relative increase since 1999 is 21%. Yes that's right, 21%. Quite a lot more than the 8.9% relative increase observed for the age group 45-54, during the same period. Yet no one talks about the sharp increase in mortality rates for this age group. Probably because no one knows about it.

For the age group 35-44 it's not quite as noteworthy:

Year
Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the rightDeathsClick to sort by Deaths ascendingClick to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the leftPopulationClick to sort by Population ascendingClick to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the leftCrude Rate Per 100,000Click to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 ascendingClick to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 descending
199957,63032,411,498177.8
200058,23132,176,646181.0
200159,54631,661,084188.1
200259,52931,003,630192.0
200358,09530,270,056191.9
200455,54329,661,763187.3
200554,78629,094,648188.3
200653,19828,513,036186.6
200750,96627,790,388183.4
200849,09126,954,561182.1
200947,73626,085,420183.0
201044,99925,531,379176.2
201144,89124,880,878180.4
201243,94024,537,314179.1
201343,93124,265,361181.0
Still, a small increase in all-cause mortality.

Yeah I know, Deaton and Case didn't explicitly state that all-cause mortality rates for non-Hispanic whites increased for the age groups 25-34 or 35-44. They did, however, state that all-cause mortality did not increase for the age group 30-34 (see the aforementioned quote I provided).

But here is the 30-34 age group for non-Hispanic whites:

Year
Results are sorted in by-variable order
Move this column one place to the rightDeathsClick to sort by Deaths ascendingClick to sort by Deaths descending
Move this column one place to the rightMove this column one place to the leftPopulationClick to sort by Population ascendingClick to sort by Population descending
Move this column one place to the leftCrude Rate Per 100,000Click to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 ascendingClick to sort by Crude Rate Per 100,000 descending
199913,93813,756,381101.3
200013,36913,550,61798.7
200114,06113,465,904104.4
200213,85813,265,133104.5
200313,62012,937,899105.3
200412,94512,515,728103.4
200512,94312,026,446107.6
200612,66411,538,341109.8
200712,61911,340,965111.3
200812,69811,362,841111.8
200913,07811,529,602113.4
201013,27911,690,434113.6
201114,20312,008,437118.3
201214,48912,217,876118.6
201314,94912,400,050120.6

In conclusion, the part in the Case and Deaton publication which states that all-cause mortality rates for non-Hispanic whites did not increase for any other age group than 45-54 is, to put it bluntly, WRONG. At least according to the data they used.

If you don't believe me, check the data yourself on CDC WONDER. Also, check Case and Deaton's publication and you will see that they refer to the CDC WONDER data (among others) in their paper.

Also, mortality rates continued to decrease for Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, and Asian and Pacific Islanders for all the age groups. This you can check for yourself as well, if you wish to.

P.S. Could someone point this out to Deaton and Case?

Update: Finally got an email response from Deaton. Here is part of the email:

"You are right about the rising mortality rate in the younger group, and our statement that you quote should have been more precise and made it clear that we were referring to the older groups.  “Deaton and Case are wrong” seems a little strong though, especially as people will read it to mean that the headline result is wrong, rather than that we made an insufficiently qualified statement. But that is your choice.

The reason we did not want to say much about the younger groups is that their mortality rates are (a) extremely low, so that it is pretty easy for even a small number of deaths to increase the overall mortality rate for them, and (b) their mortality rates have indeed increased not infrequently in the past, for example from AIDS. So it is not such a big deal when their rate goes up. But, as you say, we should have been more precise."

And he notes:

"BTW: the study is Case and Deaton, not Deaton and Case, though you are far from the only one to have made that mistake!"

That's certainly not a mistake I'll make again.

I would still argue that the increase for the 25-34 age group is significant, given that even the absolute increase of 21 out of 100,000 people is not much lower than the 34 out of 100,000 people increase for the 45-54 age group (the relative increase is more than twice as large). In addition, almost all of the increase appears to come from poisonings (all of this can be confirmed on CDC WONDER).