The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide mortality in Spain: Differences by sex and age

Gonzalo Martínez-Alés, Teresa López-Cuadrado, Christopher Morrison, Katherine Keyes, Ezra Susser

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3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Variations in suicide following the initial COVID-19 pandemic outbreak were heterogeneous across space, over time, and across population subgroup. Whether suicide has increased during the pandemic in Spain, a major initial COVID-19 hotspot, remains unclear, and no study has examined differences by sociodemographic group. Methods: We used 2016–2020 data on monthly suicide deaths from Spain's National Institute of Statistics. We implemented Seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (SARIMA) models to control seasonality, non-stationarity, and autocorrelation. Using January 2016–March 2020 data, we predicted monthly suicide counts (95 % prediction intervals) between April and December 2020, and then compared observed and predicted monthly suicide counts. All calculations were conducted for the overall study population and by sex and age group. Results: Between April and December 2020, the number of suicides in Spain was 11 % higher-than-predicted. Monthly suicide counts were lower-than-expected in April 2020 and peaked in August 2020 with 396 observed suicides. Excess suicide counts were particularly salient during the summer of 2020 – largely driven by over 50 % higher-than-expected suicide counts among males aged 65 years and older in June, July, and August 2020. Discussion: The number of suicides increased in Spain during the months following the initial COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in Spain, largely driven by increases in suicides among older adults. Potential explanations underlying this phenomenon remain elusive. Important factors to understand these findings may include fear of contagion, isolation, and loss and bereavement – in the context of the particularly high mortality rates of older adults during the initial phases of the pandemic in Spain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume329
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • Suicide

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