Introduction: Over the past 20 years the WHO has considerably improved world mortality data. There are still shortcomings but more countries now report data and world-wide estimates are regularly made.
Methods: Data about mortality have been retrieved from the WHO world database. Worldwide injury mortality estimates for 2008 as well as trends of the suicide rate from 1950 to 2009 were analysed.
Results: Suicides in the world amount to 782 thousand in 2008 according to the WHO estimate, which is 1.4% of total mortality and 15% of injury mortality. The suicide rate for the world as a whole is estimated at 11.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. The male-female rate ratio of suicide is estimated to be highest in the European Region (4.0) and the lowest in the Eastern Mediterranean region (1.1). Among males the highest suicide rate in the 15-29 age group is in the SE Asian region, in the 45-59 age group in European males and for ages above 60 in the Western Pacific region. Females from SE Asia have a remarkably high suicide rate among 15-29-year-olds and from age 45 in the Western Pacific region. The leading country is currently Lithuania, with a suicide rate of 34.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. Also among males the suicide rate is the highest in Lithuania at 61.2. Among females South Korea with 22.1 is at the top of world suicide rates.
Conclusions: During the past six decades, according to the WHO Japan, Hungary, and Lithuania have topped the list of world countries by suicide rate, but if the current trends continue South Korea will overtake all others in a few years. The heart of the problem of suicide mortality has shifted from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and now seems to be shifting to Asia. China and India are the biggest contributors to the absolute number of suicides in the world.
Keywords: WHO; mortality; suicide.