Background: Previous studies in Australia, Canada, and Brazil, found that suicide among ethnic minority groups is higher than in the general population. Indigenous peoples in Brazil have been reported to have a high suicide rate, with reports of suicide clusters occurring in several communities. The objective of this study was to report trends in countrywide suicide rates among Indigenous peoples in Brazil between 2000 and 2020, and to compare these with the non-Indigenous population.
Methods: This ecological study used Indigenous suicide data collected from all regions of Brazil during a 21-year period, between 2000 and 2020. We used suicide estimates from the Mortality Information System (SIM), available at the Brazilian Health Ministry website (DATASUS). Suicide mortality rates by state and region were calculated using the estimated Indigenous population from the 2010 census, and estimated population proportions for the other years. We performed a trend analysis and compared trends in suicide between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population during the period studied.
Findings: Suicide rates among Indigenous Brazilians have reached more than two and a half times the levels for the overall Brazilian population in 2020 (17.57 suicide deaths versus 6.35 suicide deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively). The Central-West region of Brazil had the highest suicide rates among Indigenous Brazilians over the study period, reaching 58.8 deaths/100,000 inhabitants in 2008. The younger age group (10-24 years old) had the highest suicide rates for all the years studied. Time-series analyses showed a trend of statistically significant increases in suicide rates in Brazil for both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population during the study period. The North region, and specifically Amazonas state, has shown a decisive increase in suicide rates among the Indigenous populations. The suicide rate for Indigenous people in Brazil, excluding cases in Amazonas and Mato Grosso do Sul states, were similar to those for the entire Brazilian population, showing that the Indigenous peoples who are the most vulnerable to suicide reside in these locations.
Interpretation: While there were statistically significant increases in suicide rates for all Brazilians over the study period, they remained alarmingly high among Indigenous people, compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. The high suicide rates among Indigenous people, and younger individuals in particular (aged between 10 and 24), reinforces the need for specific prevention strategies for these populations. Further studies should be concentrated on determining risk factors in distinct ethnic groups, specifically within regions experiencing an elevated risk, such as the states of Amazonas and Mato Grosso do Sul.
Funding: Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01MH128911-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Keywords: Epidemiology; Indigenous people; Suicide.
© 2023 The Author(s).