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The impact of the September 11 terrorist attack on suicide rates in New York City

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Larkin, G.L., M. Tracy, and Sandro Galea. 2007. "The impact of the September 11 terrorist attack on suicide rates in New York City." Annals of Emergency Medicine, 50(3): S13-S14.

Background The literature on the impact of disasters on the rates of suicide is mixed. According to Durkheim, suicide rates should fall in the wake of external threats or crises. (Durkheim E, 1897) No studies to date have examined the impact of September 11 terrorist attacks on completed suicide in the five boroughs comprising New York City.

Study Objective

To examine the impact of 9/11 on suicide rates in New York City. Methods

An observational study using daily counts of suicides (ICD-9 Codes: E950-959) and death from undetermined injury (E960-E969) was conducted using data from the medical examiner’s office in New York City from all five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Staten Island from 1994 to 2004. Confirmed suicides were analyzed with and without undetermined deaths added in order to confirm robustness of trends. Daily counts of suicide were aggregated into weekly counts from Tuesday to Monday, in order to include the week starting Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Results

Compared to 440/(661) suicides/(suicides + undetermined deaths) for the year 2001, the mean annual number of NYC suicides/(suicides plus undetermined deaths) for the years 1994-2004, 492.2/(662.8), is not significantly different (p >0.25 for both). Similarly, the mean number of suicides/(suicides plus undetermined deaths) for the month of September in the years 1994-2004, 39/(54.4), matches closely September 2001 suicides of 33/(54), respectively (p>0.25 for both). The annual fraction of suicides constituted by the month of September was 7.5% in 2001 and 7.9% on average for the years 1994-2004 (p>0..25). For the year 2001, NYC suicides plus undetermined injury deaths/month averaged 55.1 (SD=7.6), ranging from 38 to 67. The week from 9/11 to 9/17 saw 11 suicides which was not significantly different than the average of 12.6 (SD: 2.6) suicides per week both before and after 9/11 (Ptrend >0.20). Conclusion

Compared to the years, months, and weeks before and after 9/11 in the 5 boroughs of NYC, neither suicide frequencies nor suicide trajectories were significantly altered after the events of 11 September, 2001.

DOI:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2007.06.071 (Full Text)

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