Suicide Among Asian-Americans

Myths About Suicides Among Asian-Americans

Myth: Asian-Americans have higher suicide rates than other racial/ethnic groups. Fact: The suicide rate for Asian-Americans (6.10 per 10,000) is about half that of the national rate (11.5 per 10,000).
Myth: Asian-Americans have higher suicide rates than other racial/ethnic groups. Fact: Asian-American college students had a higher rate of suicidal thoughts than White college students but there is no national data about their rate of suicide deaths.
Myth: Young Asian-American women (aged 15-24) have the highest suicide rates of all racial/ethnic groups. Fact: American-Indian/Alaskan Native women aged 15-24 have the highest suicide rate compared to all racial/ethnic groups.

Statistics on Asian-Americans’ Suicide-related Outcomes

The following information is based on national suicide rates in 2007:1, 2

  • Suicide was the 8th leading cause of death for Asian-Americans, whereas it was the 11th leading cause of death for all racial groups combined.

  • Suicide was the second leading cause of death for Asian-Americans aged 15-34, which is consistent with the national data (the second leading cause for 15-24 year-olds and the third leading cause for 25-34 year-olds).

  • Among all Asian-Americans, those aged 20-24 had the highest suicide rate (12.44 per 100,000).

  • Among females from all racial backgrounds between the ages of 65 and 84, Asian-Americans had the highest suicide rate.

  • Asian-American men had lower suicide rates relative to those of White and American Indian/Alaskan Native men for almost all age groups.

The following information is based on findings from national studies on suicidal thoughts and attempts:

  • Asian-American adults’ lifetime rates of suicidal thoughts (8.6 percent) and attempts (2.5 percent) were lower than those of national lifetime estimate (13.5 percent for thoughts, 4.6 percent for attempts).3
  • U.S.-born Asian-American women had a higher lifetime rate of suicidal thoughts (15.9 percent) than that of the general U.S. population (13.5 percent).3
  • Among Asian-American adults, those aged 18-34 had the highest rates of suicidal thoughts (11.9 percent), intent (4.4 percent) and attempts (3.8 percent) compared to other age groups.3
  • Asian-Americans college students were more likely than White American students to have had suicidal thoughts and to attempt suicide.4

Factors Associated With Suicidal Thoughts & Attempts Among Asian-Americans

Risk factors
Protective factors
Mental Illness: The presence of depressive and anxiety disorders is one of the best predictors for suicidal thoughts.5 Ethnic group identification: A strong identification with one’s ethnic group is a protective factor against suicide attempts.6
Social Factors: Family conflict, viewing one's self as a burden to others, and experiences of discrimination predict increased suicidal thoughts and attempts.5, 6, 7, 8 Family cohesion and support: Strong family cohesion and parental support are protective factors against suicidal thoughts for adults and adolescents, respectively.9, 10
Chronic Medical Conditions: Men with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk for suicidal thoughts than those without chronic medical conditions.6  

 “By seeking professional help, many individuals who have suicidal thoughts are able to resist suicide.” - Joel Wong, PhD

How to Report News About Suicide

Certain ways of reporting news about suicide can encourage “copycat” suicide (i.e., suicide that is motivated by news reports about suicide). To avoid this, journalists should consider the following12:

  • Avoid glorifying or dramatizing death by suicide, which can encourage “copycat” suicide. 

  • Avoid using the word, “suicide” in news headlines. 

  • Avoid reporting the method of suicide, which can encourage individuals to emulate it. 

  • Refer to the deceased as “having died of suicide”, rather than “having committed suicide.” 

  • Provide information about help-seeking resources (e.g., crisis hotlines). 

What to Do When You Suspect Someone Has Suicidal Thoughts

About 75 percent of those who die by suicide give warning signs. These include giving away prized possessions, talking about suicide, preparing for death (e.g., writing a will), obtaining the means to die by suicide, depression, changes in personality, social withdrawal and changes in sleeping or eating patterns.

A national study found that, compared to Latinos, Asian-Americans with suicidal thoughts were less likely to seek help and perceive a need for treatment.11

If you suspect that someone has suicidal thoughts, ask directly if she/he is considering suicide. If the person says “yes”, take it seriously & help her/him obtain professional help.

If you believe a suicide attempt is imminent, do not leave the person alone. Call 911 or a suicide crisis hotline.

References

1Heron, M. (2011). Deaths: Leading causes for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 59, 8.

2Xu, J., Kochanek, K.D., Murphy, S. L., & Tejada-Vera, B. (2010). Deaths: Final data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58, 10.

3Duldulao, A.A., Takeuchi, D.T., & Hong, S. (2009). Correlates of suicidal behaviors among Asian Americans. Archives of Suicide Research, 13, 277-290.

4Kisch, J., Leino, E. V., & Silverman, M. M. (2005). Aspects of suicidal behavior, depression and treatment in college students: Results from the spring 2000 National College Health Assessment Survey. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 35, 3–13

5Kuroki, Y., and Tilley, J.L. (2012). Recursive partitioning analysis of lifetime suicidal behaviors in Asian Americans. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 3, 17-28.

6Cheng, J.K.Y., et al. (2010). Lifetime suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in Asian Americans. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 1,18-30.

7Wong, Y. J., Brownson, C., and Schwing, A. E. (2011). Risk and protective factors associated with Asian American students suicidal ideation: A multicampus, national study. Journal of College Student Development, 52, 396-408.

8Wong, Y. J., Koo, K., Tran, K. K., Chiu, Y.-C., Mok, Y. (2011). Asian American college students suicide idea-tion: A mixed-methods study. Journal of Counseling Psychology®, 58, 197-209.

9Wong, Y. J., Uhm, S. Y., & Li, P. (in press). Asian Americans’ family cohesion and suicide ideation: Moderating and mediating effects. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

10Cho, Y. & Haslam, N. (2010). Suicidal ideation and distress among immigrant adolescents: The role of accultura-tion, life stress, and social support. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 370-379.

11Chu, Joyce P., Hsieh, K. Y., and Tokars, D. (2011). Help-Seeking tendencies in Asian Americans with suicidal ideation and attempts. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 2, 25-38.

12Suicide Prevention Resource Center (2012). Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media. (PDF, 156KB)


This fact sheet is a product of the Asian American Psychological Association Leadership Fellows Program and fellow Shihoko Hijioka, PhD, and project mentor Joel Wong, PhD.