Suicide on railway networks: epidemiology, risk factors and prevention

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 Sep;42(9):763-71. doi: 10.1080/00048670802277255.


The aim of the present study was to review international literature on the incidence of suicide on railway networks, describe risk factors associated with it, and examine existing prevention practices. Searches on Medline and PsycINFO for the period 1966-2007 were performed. Thirty original studies published in English on epidemiology of rail suicide were included in the review along with peer-reviewed articles on risk factors and prevention of rail suicide. Internationally, suicide by collision with a train accounted for 1-12% of all suicides, with up to 94% of all attempts resulting in death. Suicide by train seriously affects not only survivors, but also train drivers and bystanders. Correlations between density of rail network, number of passengers and number of suicides by train have been found. Conflicting data exist on gender ratio of this type of suicide, but studies are homogenous in identifying young adults (20-40 year of age) as those most exposed to train suicide. Documented psychiatric diagnoses were found in up to 83% of cases. Mid-seasonal peaks were also identified, with events occurring mostly during late morning and early afternoon. Limited evidence exists for effective suicide prevention practices. Successful examples are represented by pits and sliding door systems (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit System) and responsible media reporting (Viennese Subway). Suicide by train involves emotional and financial costs to individuals and society as a whole. A combination of different strategies might significantly reduce its effect.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Railroads / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data