Characterizing Suicide in Toronto: An Observational Study and Cluster Analysis
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OBJECTIVE: To determine whether people who have died from suicide in a large epidemiologic sample form clusters based on demographic, clinical, and psychosocial factors. METHOD: We conducted a coroner's chart review for 2886 people who died in Toronto, Ontario, from 1998 to 2010, and whose death was ruled as suicide by the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario. A cluster analysis using known suicide risk factors was performed to determine whether suicide deaths separate into distinct groups. Clusters were compared according to person- and suicide-specific factors. RESULTS: Five clusters emerged. Cluster 1 had the highest proportion of females and nonviolent methods, and all had depression and a past suicide attempt. Cluster 2 had the highest proportion of people with a recent stressor and violent suicide methods, and all were married. Cluster 3 had mostly males between the ages of 20 and 64, and all had either experienced recent stressors, suffered from mental illness, or had a history of substance abuse. Cluster 4 had the youngest people and the highest proportion of deaths by jumping from height, few were married, and nearly one-half had bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Cluster 5 had all unmarried people with no prior suicide attempts, and were the least likely to have an identified mental illness and most likely to leave a suicide note. CONCLUSIONS: People who die from suicide assort into different patterns of demographic, clinical, and death-specific characteristics. Identifying and studying subgroups of suicides may advance our understanding of the heterogeneous nature of suicide and help to inform development of more targeted suicide prevention strategies.
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