Scales of Measurement


This post is part of a series I’ve been chipping away at, where I teach basic statistics and probability. The other posts in the series include:

Variables are the outcomes of a psychological measurement. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes, a variable is “any characteristics, number, or quantity that can be measured or counted.” Also called data items, they are called variables because the “value may vary” and may change over time.

There are four scales of measurement used to distinguish variables:

  • Nominal/Categorical
  • Ordinal
  • Interval
  • Ratio

Nominal Variables

Nominal variables are those that separate a value into different categories. Examples of nominal variables are gender (male, female, other) or type of transportation (car, bus, train). These are categories and have no intrinsic value that allows them to be compared on their own.

Ordinal Variables

Ordinal variables are similar to nominal variables but they are ranked. These are like nominal variables but they are ranked. One example of an ordinal variable is educational achievement. A scale might look like this:

  • Less than a high school diploma
  • High school or GED
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Graduate or first professional degree
  • Doctorate degree

These can be ranked from least education to most education, but there is no way to tell necessarily how much “more” education a Bachelor’s degree is when compared to a graduate or professional degree.

Interval Variables

An interval variable is an ordinal variable where the different items are evenly spaced. For example, income level:

  • $0-4,999
  • $5,000-9,999
  • 10,000-14,999
  • 15,000-20,000

Each one of these is evenly spaced. There must be a continuum to measure an interval variable.

Ratio Variables

Ratio variables are like interval variables but with the notable exception that “0” indicates an absence of the value. For example, in our previous example income level happens to mean no money. If we look at temperature however, 0 degrees Celsius does not mean there is no temperature. This makes Celsius an Interval Variable.

On the other hand, Kelvin is a ratio variable because 0 Kelvin really means no heat or temperature at all (as we say, absolute zero.)

Continuous vs. Discrete Variables

One more distinction is the difference between continuous and discrete variables. Continuous variables are those that can take on any value. For example, a variable that can have any number between 10 and 11 (10.48938, 10.74982, 10.9999) is continuous.

If the survey only has two values with with nothing in between (like 10 or 11) then this is a discrete variable, also known as an integer.

Why Separate Variables into Categories

It’s important to understand whether the variables we are working with are nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio, because we’ll use different statistical tests when working with different data. Coding, and other manipulations and processing of the data may also differ depending on the variable.

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Suicide Facts and Figures for Presentations


For those of you who don’t use it, the website Quora is an absolute goldmine for information on a wide variety of topics. It allows you to ask and answer questions by individuals who all use their real names, and who have to identify their area of expertise (their reason for knowing the answer.)

One of the questions asked was “What are some striking facts or figures about suicide?” My answer is the basis for this post. I identify a number of suicide facts and figures with citations. These may make useful additions to presentations that you do in the future.

Suicide Attempts

We know that in the United States, about 50% of suicide deaths are by firearm (CDC, 2016). This accounts for the startling statistic that 60% of people who attempt suicide will die on their first attempt (Bostwick, et. al., 2016)

Of those that survive, 70% of those who live will never go on to have a second attempt, hopefully because they get the help that they need. About 23% will go on to attempt again (sometimes repeatedly) and live, while 7% will die on a future attempt. (Owens, Horrocks & House, 2002)

Gun owners in particular at much higher risk of suicide. We know that gun owners are 57 times more likely to die by suicide within 7 days of their purchase (likely because they purchased it specifically intent on suicide), and 7 times more likely within the first year as non-gun-owners. (Wintermule, et. al., 1999) Because of the high risk gun owners have for dying by suicide, a course like Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) can be extremely useful in having this difficult conversation.

Depending on the type of gun and other variables, 85-98% of firearm suicide attempts will end in death, while only about 2% of overdoses will end in death. (Elnour & Harrison, 2008).

Suicide Prevalence

Women attempt suicide about 3 times as frequently as men do (Vijayakumar, 2015) but tend to die 3 times more frequently (Varnik, 2012) chiefly because of their use of more lethal methods like firearm and hanging, when compared to women who more commonly use overdose.

Suicide is most common in the middle ages, accounting for 54% of suicides in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2013) and 51% of suicides in the United States (CDC, 2011).

Suicide Antecedents

It’s been suggested that up to 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (Bertole & Fleischmann, 2002). Although this figure has been challenged because it is based on psychiatric autopsies (reviews with those left behind) that might be vulnerable to bias, it is common enough to be valuable.


Did I miss any suicide facts and figures that you’d like to see? Let me know and I’ll update the article. Thanks all!


Bertolote, J.M. & Fleischmann, A. (2002) Suicide and psychiatric diagnosis: a worldwide perspective. World Psychiatry. 1(3): 181-185.

Bostwick, J. M., Pabbati, C., Geske, J. R., & McKean, A. J. (2016). Suicide attempt as a risk factor for completed suicide: Even more lethal than we knew. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(11), 1094–1100.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2013, 2011) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC (producer). Available from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016) National Vital Statistics Report. 65(4). Retrieved on September 19, 2017 from

Elnour, A.A. & Harrison, J. (2008) Lethality of suicide methods. Journal of Injury Prevention. 14(1). 39-45. doi: 10.1136/ip.2007.016246.

Vijayakumar, L. (2015) Suicide in women. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 57(Supp. 2). S233-S238. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.161484.

Owens, D., Horrocks, J. & House, A. (2002) Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry. 181. 193-199.

Statistics Canada. (2013) CANSIM, table 102-0551 and Catalogue no. 84F0209X. Retrieved from

Varnik, P. (2012) Suicide in the World. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 9(3). 760-771. doi:  10.3390/ijerph9030760

Wintemute, G.J., Parham, C.A., Beaumont, J.J., Wright, M., & Drake, C. (1999) Mortality among recent purchasers of handguns. New England Journal of Medicine. 341(21):1583-9

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Suicide Facts and Figures for Presentations," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
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Suicide and Religion


Studies on the connection between religion and suicide have led to mixed results. Some studies indicated higher levels of suicidality, no relation or reduced risk. Many of the studies that indicated a relationship (either positive or negative), had mediators attached – such as that individuals who were more religious were less likely to attempt suicide as long as they lacked other social supports.

Religiosity and Suicide

Meta-reviews, large scale analyses of suicide risk have helped shed some evidence on the connection between religion and suicide.

Lawrence, Oquendo & Stanley (2016) noted that suicide and religion are both complex dimensions (e.g. suicide ideation versus attempts versus death, religious affiliation versus attendance.) Being part of a majority religious community was found to be a greater protective factor against suicide than a minority community, but that attending religious services was not as important as having social supports (whether religious or not.)

Norko et. al. (2017) noted that all major faith communities (including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity) have strong objections to suicide.

In Lawrence et. al. (2016) a sample of clinically depressed patients in a hospital setting were found to have a higher rate of suicidality if they identified a religious affiliation, the more they attended religious services, and the more they indicated religion was important.

Finally, Wu, Wang & Jia (2015), analyzing over 5000 participants across several large studies identified the three elements that are responsible for the protective factor of suicide: being of a western culture, being older, and living in a area with religious homogeneity.

Spirituality and Suicide

Spirituality can be examined through a lens different from organized religion. While religion may entail specific doctrine, spirituality instead examines one’s relationship with “self, others and ‘God’” (Mandhoui, et. al., 2016), in whatever form that takes.

Mandhoui et. al. (2016) surveyed individuals who were in hospital for suicide attempts. Those individuals lower in spirituality were more likely to attempt suicide at 18 months, with “value of life” tending to reduce the chance that someone re-attempts.

Amato, et. al. (2016) noted that spirituality can be integrated into suicide prevention programs such as case management, therapy and suicide assessment to determine the impact for that individual. They summarize the impact of spirituality by noting that “some individuals at high risk of suicide may find fellowship in an affirming community of faith; others may be helped by rituals that confer atonement or a state of exaltation; still others may learn, through mindfulness meditation, to suspend their inclination to judge themselves harshly.”

Specific Religions / Denominations and Suicide

Buddhism and Suicide

Buddhism has received some exploration in the scientific literature, especially in light of Buddhist monks who have self-immolated for political reasons, the most famous of whom was Thích Quảng Đức in 1963, but research on the exact suicide rate, especially when considered with other religions is lacking.

Lizardi & Gearing (2010) noted several elements that may decrease suicide in Buddhist individuals, including that the largest communities of Buddhists (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) have lower suicide rates than whites (who tend to belong to different religious communities) and a strong aversion to killing. In contrast, a belief in reincarnation and life-after-death may contribute to an increase in the suicide rate among specific individuals who adhere strongly to Buddhist traditions.

Catholicism / Protestantism and Suicide

Emile Durkheim in his 1897 work Suicide examined the suicide rates among Catholics and Protestants. He found that Catholics had much lower rates of suicide than Protestants and theorized that it was the result of social support provided in the Catholic community. Additional support was confirmed by Torgler & Schaltegger (2014) and Siegrist (1996) in a modern sample, who also found that church attendance reduced suicide.

Hinduism / Islam and Suicide

Ineichen (1998) examined a number of studies on Hinduism and Islam and consistently found that Muslims had much lower suicide rates than Hindus, focused on a variety of South Asian diaspora (such as individuals in the United Kingdom from other countries.)

Following up on this research, Thimmaiah et. al. (2016) explored a population of Muslims and Hindus in India and found that , while Muslims indicated more negative attitudes towards suicide which may help explain why they are less likely to attempt suicide.

Judaism and Suicide

Examining Jewish Israelis, Eliezer & Daniel (2012) found a rate of suicide lower in Jewish individuals than those who are Catholic or Protestant. Significantly, those with other risk factors for suicide (like veterans, immigrants or those who have experienced trauma) are at elevated at risk of suicide despite their religiosity.


After a review of the literature, it emerges that religious denominations and other factors can have an influence on suicide. Some religions have higher rates of suicide, and some have lower rates, which may be explained by the value system of those religions or the social support of those religions.

The suicide risk by religion, from highest to lowest is below:

  1. Protestant Christian
  2. Catholic Christian
  3. Jewish

Other religions with less well established data sets can be compared to each other, but not necessarily to other religions: Islam has a lower level of suicide than Hinduism, while Buddhism has a lower level of suicide than Native American spirituality.


Amato, J. J., Kayman, D. J., Lombardo, M., & Goldstein, M. F. (2016). Spirituality and religion: Neglected factors in preventing veteran suicide?. Pastoral Psychology, doi:10.1007/s11089-016-0747-8

Dyson, J., Cobb, M., Forman, D. (1997) The meaning of spirituality: a literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 26(6). Retrieved on March 3, 2017 from doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.00446.x

Durkheim, E. (1897). Le suicide: étude de sociologie. F. Alcan: Chicago, IL.

Eliezer, W., & Daniel, S. (2012). Suicide in Judaism with a Special Emphasis on Modern Israel. Religions, Vol 3, Iss 3, Pp 725-738 (2012), (3), 725. doi:10.3390/rel3030725

Ineichen, B. (1998). The influence of religion on the suicide rate: Islam and Hinduism compared. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 1(1), 31.

Lawrence, R. E., Brent, D., Mann, J. J., Burke, A. K., Grunebaum, M. F., Galfalvy, H. C., & Oquendo, M. A. (2016). Religion as a risk factor for suicide attempt and suicide ideation among depressed patients. Journal Of Nervous And Mental Disease, 204(11), 845-850. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000484

Lawrence, R. E., Oquendo, M. A., & Stanley, B. (2016). Religion and suicide risk: A systematic review. Archives Of Suicide Research, 20(1), 1-21. doi:10.1080/13811118.2015.1004494

Mandhouj, O., Perroud, N., Hasler, R., Younes, N., & Huguelet, P. (2016). Characteristics of spirituality and religion among suicide attempters. Journal Of Nervous And Mental Disease, 204(11), 861-867. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000497

Norko, M. A., Freeman, D., Phillips, J., Hunter, W., Lewis, R., & Viswanathan, R. (2017). Can Religion Protect Against Suicide?. Journal Of Nervous & Mental Disease, 205(1), 9-14. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000615

Siegrist, M. (1996). Church Attendance, Denomination, and Suicide Ideology. Journal Of Social Psychology, 136(5), 559-566.

Thimmaiah, R., Poreddi, V., Ramu, R., Selvi, S., & Math, S. (2016). Influence of Religion on Attitude Towards Suicide: An Indian Perspective. Journal Of Religion & Health, 55(6), 2039-2052. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0213-z

Torgler, B., & Schaltegger, C. (2014). Suicide and Religion: New Evidence on the Differences Between Protestantism and Catholicism. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 53(2), 316-340. doi:10.1111/jssr.12117

Wu, A., Wang, J., & Jia, C. (2015). Religion and Completed Suicide: a Meta-Analysis. Plos ONE, 10(6), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131715

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Suicide and Religion," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from

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Suicide Awareness Presentation

IntroductionSuicide Presentation Slide

The following is a presentation I prepared in 2012 on Suicide Awareness for delivery at Durham College. It’s just been sitting on my hard drive since then, so I’ve made it available for other organizations that wish to provide suicide awareness presentations. The content is reproduced below, and you can download the slides here. Although the content takes a Canadian focus, I’ve noted US statistics where possible.


  • About Me
  • A Note on Wording
  • Definitions
  • Suicide Statistics
  • Suicide True and False
  • Risk Factors for Suicide
  • Warning Signs for Suicide
  • How to Help
  • Support Networks
  • Case Study

About Me

  • Currently Director of Online Support & Communication @ Distress Centre Durham
  • Distress Centre Durham History
    • 1600+ hours of telephone experience
    • 600+ hours of online chat and text
    • Former Placement Student, Summer Student (x3)
  • Trainer Experience
    • Distress Centre Durham Basic Training
    • DCIB Suicide Risk Assessment
    • Online Chat and Text (ONTX) Training

Before we start…

  • People do not commit suicide
  • You commit a crime, you get committed to a psychiatric hospital
  • Instead, people who take their own lives are said to have suicided or alternately died by suicide, as one dies of lung cancer or a person is murdered.


  • Suicide – Intentional taking of one’s own life
  • Suicidal ideation – Clinical term for suicidal thoughts
  • Parasuicide
    • A suicidal attempt that is designed to fail or be discovered
    • Not necessarily attention-seeking behaviour

What is a Crisis?

A crisis is any event that overwhelms someone’s coping mechanisms, those things a person does to solve or deal with a problem

Suicide Statistics

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada for 18-24 year olds (behind car accidents) (Statistics Canada, 2015)
  • More than 90% of suicide victims may have had diagnosable mental illness (Bertolote, et. al., 2004) – Note that there is still not consensus on this figure, it still makes an important point about mental health treatment for suicide
  • 21,115 people died by suicide in Ontario in 2005
  • The suicide rate is 12.7 per 100,000 males and 4.1 per 100,000 females in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 2014a)
  • The Aboriginal suicide rate is 11 times higher than the national average (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011)

Risk Factors for Suicide (CDC, 2016)

  • Mental Illness
  • Clinical Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Schizophrenia all increase risk
  • Financial Difficulties
  • Bullying (+ Cyber-bullying) for young adults
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Academic / School Troubles
  • Legal Problems
  • History of Physical / Sexual Abuse
  • Bereavement Grief and Loss
    • Especially a suicide-related loss
    • Interrupted (or “Complicated” Grief)

Suicide True and False

(See: Common Suicide Myths)

  • Most suicides involve drugs or alcohol…True! Up to 70% percent of suicides involve alcohol or drugs (Pompili, 2010)
  • Talking about suicide can plant the idea in someone’s head False! Most people feeling suicidal want to talk about their feelings
  • Teenagers have the highest rate of suicide False! The highest risk population is 45-54 years of age in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2014b), and in the US (CDC, 2014)
  • The most common suicide method is pills False! The most common method (overall) is hanging (in Canada: Statistics, 2016); in the US it is firearm: Barber & Miller, 2014)
  • Most suicidal people leave notes False! Only about 30% of suicides leave notes (Shioiri, et. al., 2005)
  • Suicidal people want to die False! Most suicidal people don’t want to die, but want the pain to stop

Suicide Risk Factors vs. Suicide Warning Signs

  • Risk Factors are things that increase the likelihood someone will suicide because those things make coping more difficult
  • Warning signs are clues that a suicidal crisis may be imminent
  • It takes careful clinical examination by a trained mental health professional to determine a person’s level of risk in the medium and long-term

Suicide Warning Signs (AAS, n.d.)

  • Sudden Mood changes (either very happy or very sad)
  • Sudden appetite changes
  • Talking about life in the past tense
  • Telling people goodbye, tying up loose ends
  • Talking about suicidal acts, feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Making lethality statements (“I wish I could fall asleep and not wake up”)

How to Help

  • Listen!
  • Provide empathy
  • Refer to resources
  • Distress Centre (1-800-452-0688, 905-430-2522)
  • Durham College Counselling Services
  • Durham Mental Health Services
  • Other resources (e.g. spiritual)
  • Explore options
  • Build support network

Support Network

  • Three levels of support
    • Internal
    • External
    • Peripheral
  • Strong support network allows developing the resources that provides the strongest defence against suicide
  • Internal Supports
    • Things that we do ourselves to cope with stress
    • Examples include:
      • Journalling
      • Listening to music / Playing an Instrument
      • Running / Working Out / Exercise
      • Prayer / Meditation / Spirituality
      • Art
      • Yoga / Massage
      • Deep Breathing
      • Other Hobbies
  • External Supports
    • People in our “inner circle” we reach out to
    • Examples include:
      • Family
      • Friends
      • Pets
  • Peripheral Supports
    • Community agencies and others outside of our inner circle
    • Examples include:
    • Distress Lines (e.g. Distress Centre)
    • Family Doctors
    • Psychiatrists / Psychologists
    • Durham Mental Health Services
    • Clergy


  • Suicide is usually preventable
  • Asking about suicidal thoughts is the most important thing you can do
  • Never be afraid to reach out to a professional for help

Case Study

The original training included a case study derived from Distress Centre Durham training materials.


American Association of Suicidiology (AAS). (n.d.) “Warning Signs | American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

Barber, C.W., Miller, M.J. (2014) Reducing a Suicidal Person’s Access to Lethal Means of Suicide: A Research Agenda. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 47(3S2):S264–S272

Bertolote, J. M., Fleischmann, A., De Leo, D., & Wasserman, D. (2004). Psychiatric Diagnoses and Suicide: Revisiting the Evidence. Crisis: The Journal Of Crisis Intervention And Suicide Prevention, 25(4), 147-155. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.25.4.147

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016) Suicide: Risk and Protective Factors. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

Pompili, M., Serafini, G., Innamorati, M., Dominici, G., Ferracuti, S., Kotzalidis, G. D., … Lester, D. (2010). Suicidal Behavior and Alcohol Abuse. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(4), 1392–1431.

Public Health Agency of Canada. The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada 2006. Ottawa, ON: Public Health Agency of Canada,  2011. Available at:

Shioiri, T., Nishimura, A., Akazawa, K., Abe, R., Nushida, H., Ueno, Y., & … Someya, T. (2005). Incidence of note-leaving remains constant despite increasing suicide rates. Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 59(2), 226-228. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1819.2005.01364.x

Statistics Canada. (2014a) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes no.)” from CANSIM, table 102-0551. Retrieved from on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2014b) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes no.)” from CANSIM, table 102-0551. Retrieved electronically from on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2015) Table 102-0561 – Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, annual, CANSIM (database). Retrieved on August 24, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2016) Navaneelan, T. Suicide rates: An overview. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2016), "Suicide Awareness Presentation," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
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Canadian Suicide Statistics 2016


There are a variety of sources related to Canadian suicide statistics, but no source effectively summarizes all of the statistics, with graphs and charts, and links back to the original citation. The purpose of this article is to provide the most up-to-date information on suicide by method, gender, province, age-range, and other characteristics. The most common source of data is Statistics Canada.

Suicide Rate in Canada

The overall rate for suicide in Canada is 11.3 per 100,000 based on the 2012 Statistics Canada data (released in 2015), for both genders. This is mostly unchanged from the 5 year average of 11.36 per 100,000. The next data will be released in 2017.

Although other countries may calculate suicide differently, Canada ranks approximately 70 for both sexes suicide, 70 for male suicides and 73 for female suicides (out of a total of 170 countries, where lower is better), based on 2012 data from the World Health Organization. (WHO, 2012)

Suicide by Age in Canada

The largest population of suicides in Canada are from men and women 45-59. All Ages data includes suicide of those of unknown age and those under 10.

Age Rate per 100,000 persons % of Total
10 to 14 1.8 1%
15 to 19 10.2 5%
20 to 24 12.1 6%
25 to 29 11.4 6%
30 to 34 11.6 6%
35 to 39 12.8 6%
40 to 44 15.5 8%
45 to 49 17.5 9%
50 to 54 17.1 9%
55 to 59 17.6 9%
60 to 64 13.4 7%
65 to 69 10.5 5%
70 to 74 11.1 6%
75 to 79 9.3 5%
80 to 84 9.9 5%
85 to 89 11.1 6%
90 and older 8.1 4%

Chart, Suicide by Age in Canada

Suicide by Age in Canada







Suicide by Gender in Canada

In Canada, like most countries, male suicides outnumber female suicides. (Statistics Canada, 2012)

Age at time of death Male per 100,000 Female per 100,00 people
All Ages 17.3 5.4
5-9 0 0
10-14 1.8 1.9
15-19 14.1 6.2
20-24 18.1 5.9
25-29 18.1 4.7
30-34 17 6.1
35-39 19.5 6.2
40-44 24.9 6
45-49 24.8 10
50-54 25.9 8.2
55-59 26.7 8.6
60-64 20.5 6.4
65-69 16.2 5.1
70-74 18.9 4.1
75-79 15.9 3.7
80-84 20.6 2.2
85-89 24.2 3.9
90 and older 20.5 3.5

The chart below shows the gross number of suicides in order to demonstrate the male percentage of the total. (Statistics Canada, 2012)

Age Range

Male Female Total

Male %

10 to 14 17 17 34 50%
15 to 19 160 67 227 70%
20 to 24 221 70 291 76%
25 to 29 217 56 273 79%
30 to 34 202 73 275 73%
35 to 39 223 71 294 76%
40 to 44 297 71 368 81%
45 to 49 331 132 463 71%
50 to 54 354 111 465 76%
55 to 59 323 105 428 75%
60 to 64 210 67 277 76%
65 to 69 130 43 173 75%
70 to 74 107 26 133 80%
75 to 79 67 19 86 78%
80 to 84 62 9 71 87%
85 to 89 38 11 49 78%
90 and older 13 6 19 68%
Total 2972 954 3926

Chart, Suicide by Gender in CanadaSuicide by Gender in Canada

Suicide Attempts in Canada

Suicide attempts usually do not lead to suicide deaths. In the US, Han et. al. (2016) reported that in 2012, there were over 1.3 million suicide attempts and 39,426 suicide deaths, leading to a ratio of approximately 33 suicide attempts for every suicide death.

Statistics Canada (2016) notes a World Health Organization source that notes up to 20 suicide attempts for every suicide death.

Suicide Attempts by Gender in Canada

Females attempt suicide 1.5 times more often than males (Langlois & Morrison, 2002) Mustard, et. al. (2012) note that the rate of suicide attempts among women is 3 times that of men. Both sources are referred to in Statistics Canada (2016).

Suicide by Method in Canada

Suicide methods impact lethality, therefore it is important to understand the most common methods used to attempt suicide in Canada. Men are likelier to use more lethal means like hanging and firearm than women are (Bilsker & White, 2011) increasing their suicide lethality. 1998 data reveals the following gender breakdown by method for suicide (Langlois & Morrison, 2002)

Total Male Female
# % # % # %
Total Suicide Deaths 3698 100 2925 100 773 100
Suffocation 1433 38.8 1171 40 262 33.9
Total Poisoning Deaths 965 26.1 646 22.1 319 41.3
Firearms 816 22.1 765 26.2 51 6.6
Jumping From High Place 160 4.3 115 3.9 45 5.8
Drowning/Submersion 122 3.3 79 2.7 43 5.6
Cutting/Piercing Instrument 59 1.6 48 1.6 11 1.4
Other/Unspecified Means 143 3.9 101 3.5 42 5.4

Additionally, the following information is provided for poisonings (these numbers make up the total poisoning deaths number above):

Total Male Female
# % # % # %
Drugs and Medication 487 13.2 246 8.4 241 31.2
Motor Vehicle Exhaust 269 7.3 229 7.8 40 5.2
Other Carbon Monoxide 164 4.4 135 4.6 29 3.8
Other/Unspecified Poisoning 45 1.2 36 1.2 9 1.2

Chart, Suicide by Method in Canada

Suicide by Method in Canada

The above chart shows total poisoning deaths. The below chart breaks out poisoning into the various types:

Suicide by Method in Canada, Poisoning

Suicide by Province in Canada

Suicide in Canada has a distinct provincial impact, with northern territories having a higher rate of suicide and the Maritimes having a lower rate of suicide as compared to the provincial average. (Statistics Canada, 2016b)

Both Sexes Male Female
Nunavut 63.5 93.9 30.6
Yukon 18.7 30 6.8
Northwest Territories 18.4 30.5 5
New Brunswick 13.9 22.5 5.5
Manitoba 13.4 18 9
Quebec 12.2 18.9 5.4
Alberta 12.2 18.3 6
Saskatchewan 11.9 18.6 5.1
Nova Scotia 11 15.9 6.3
British Columbia 9.5 14.5 4.7
Ontario 8.5 13.1 4.1
Newfoundland and Labrador 7.8 12.3 3.4
Prince Edward Island 5.8 7.4 4.4

Chart, Suicide by Province in Canada

Youth Suicide in Canada

Youth suicide in Canada has been relatively stable for several years. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of suicide in Canada for ages 15 to 34. (Statistics Canada, 2015a) Additionally, there are more suicide attempts in youth than adults, with Schwartz (2003) estimating between 50 and 200 attempts per youth suicide death.

See my article Risk Factors Predicting Youth Suicide Attempts for more information.

LGBT Suicide in Canada

It has been well-documented that the LGBT community has a higher rate of suicide than the general population.

Approximately 30% of suicide deaths and 28% of suicide attempts in Canada involve lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals. (LGB; Banks, 2003) The LGB population was estimated by Statistics Canada (2015c) at approximately 2%, though this is likely an underestimate.

The trans suicide rate is dramatically higher than the LGB rate. Between 20 and 40% of transgender individuals report suicide attempts, while a study of trans youth in Ontario reported that 35% had suicidal thoughts and 11% had a suicide attempt in the previous year. (Bauer, 2015)

Veteran/Military Suicide in Canada

Military member and military veteran suicide has increasingly been in the public consciousness. In 2012, the Canadian Forces had 10 suicide deaths by current members and 11 suicide attempts by current members according to a Global News article citing Department of National Defence data. (Minsky, 2015)

Given a strength of approximately 68,000 Regular Force members and 27,000 Reserve members, 10 suicides leads to a suicide rate per 100,000 of approximately 9.5, slightly lower than the general population rate of 13.1.

See my article Suicide Prevention in the US Military.


Bauer, G. R., Scheim, A. I., Pyne, J., Travers, R., & Hammond, R. (2015). Intervenable factors associated with suicide risk in transgender persons: a respondent driven sampling study in Ontario, Canada. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 1-15. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1867-2

Banks, C. (2003) The Cost of Homophobia: Literature Review on the Human Impact of Homophobia On Canada. Community-University Institute for Social Research. Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Bilsker, D. & White, J. (2011) The silent epidemic of male suicide. BCMJ. 53(10) 529-534.. Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Han, B., Kott, P. S., Hughes, A., McKeon, R., Blanco, C., & Compton, W. M. (2016). Estimating the rates of deaths by suicide among adults who attempt suicide in the United States. Journal Of Psychiatric Research, 77125-133. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.03.002

Langlois, S & Morrison, P. (2012) Suicide deaths and suicide attempts. Health Reports. 13(2):9-21. Retrieved on August 26, 2016 from

Minsky, A. (2013, 4 Dec.) “For every suicide in the Canadian Forces, at least one attempt was recorded: documents”. Global News. Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Mustard, C., Bielecky, A., Etches, J., Wilkins, R., Tjepkema, M., Amick, B., Smith, P.M., Gnam, W.H. & Aronson, K. (2012). Suicide Mortality by Occupation in Canada, 1991-2001. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry-Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 55(6), 369-376.

Schwartz, M.W. (2003) The 5-minute Pediatric Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp 796.

Statistics Canada. (2015a) Table 102-0561 – Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, annual, CANSIM (database). Accessed August 27, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2015b) “Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group (Both sexes rate).” CANSIM, Table 102-0551. Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Statistics Canada. (2015c) “Same-sex couples and sexual orientation… by the numbers” Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Statistics Canada. (2016a) Table  102-0563 –  Leading causes of death, total population, by sex, Canada, provinces and territories, annual,  CANSIM (database). Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Statistics Canada. (2016b) Navaneelan, T. Suicide rates: An overview. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

World Health Organization (WHO). (2012) “GHO | By category | Suicide rates – Data by country.” Retrieved on August 27, 2016 from

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2016), "Canadian Suicide Statistics 2016," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
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