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Cross-national comparisons of increasing suicidal mortality rates for Koreans in the Republic of Korea and Korean Americans in the USA, 2003–2012

  • A. Kung (a1), K. G. Hastings (a2), K. I. Kapphahn (a3), E. J. Wang (a4), M. R. Cullen (a5), S. L. Ivey (a6), L. P. Palaniappan (a2) and S. Chung (a7)...

Abstract

Aims.

Korea has the highest suicide rate of developed countries, two times higher than the USA. Suicide trends among Koreans Americans living in the USA during the same period have not yet been described. We report suicide mortality rates and trends for four groups: (1) Korean Americans, (2) non-Hispanic White (NHW) Americans, (3) selected Asian American subgroups and (4) Koreans living in the Republic of Korea.

Methods.

We used US national (n = 18 113 585) and World Health Organization (WHO) (n = 232 919 253) mortality records for Korea from 2003 to 2012 to calculate suicide rates, all expressed per 100 000 persons. We assessed temporal trends and differences in age, gender and race/ethnicity using binomial regression.

Results.

Suicide rates are highest in Koreans living in the Republic of Korea (32.4 for men and 14.8 for women). Suicide rates in Korean Americans (13.9 for men and 6.5 for women) have nearly doubled from 2003 to 2012 and exceed rates for all other Asian American subgroups (5.4–10.7 for men and 1.6–4.2 for women). Suicide rates among NHWs (21.0 for men and 5.6 for women) remain high. Among elders, suicide in Korean Americans (32.9 for men and 15.4 for women) is the highest of all examined racial/ethnic groups in the USA.

Conclusions.

Suicide in Korean Americans is higher than for other Asian Americans and follows temporal patterns more similar to Korea than the USA. Interventions to prevent suicide in Korean American populations, particularly among the elderly, are needed.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: S. Chung, Research Institute, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Palo Alto, California, USA. (Email: chungs@pamfri.org)

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