Suicide in Greenland

Suicide in Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, is a significant national social issue. Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world: reports between 1985 and 2012 showed that an average of 83 people in 100,000 died by suicide yearly.[1]

Map of the suicide rate (age-standardized, per 100,000 population) in the world as of 2010.
  •   > 30
  •   20 – 30
  •   15 – 20
  •   10 – 15
  •   5 – 10
  •   0 – 5
  •   Data unavailable

Greenland is culturally and geographically isolated as well as one of the coldest and least populous nations in the world. Although factors such as these have been known to contribute to suicide-related issues, it remains unclear if they have a direct influence on Greenlandic suicides or to what degree. A host of different initiatives have been taken, however, to reduce the suicide rate in the country, including even roadside posters,[2] and a national suicide prevention strategy has been initiated entailing courses, general education, outreach in local communities, and involving professionals such as teachers, social workers, and doctors.[3]


The rate of suicide in Greenland began to rise in the 1970s and kept increasing until 1986. In 1986, suicide became the leading cause of death for young people in several towns, such as Sarfannguit.[2] In 1970, the rate of suicide in Greenland was historically very low, but by 1990–1994, it had become one of the highest in the world with 107 per 100,000 persons dying by suicide per year.[4] A similarly precipitous rise in suicide rates to a very high elevation has been observed among the Inuit in Canada.[5][6] Greenland Government data reported in 2010 suggest that almost one suicide occurred a week.[7]

Incidence and varianceEdit

According to suicide data published by Statistics Greenland, suicide accounts for 8% of total deaths in Greenland and is the leading cause of death among young men aged 15–29. [8]

An article published in the journal, BMC Psychiatry, in 2009 reported that a total of 1,351 suicides took place in Greenland during a study period of 35 years, from 1968 to 2002. The study noted a significant variation of the suicide rate in relation to the season, characterized by peaks in June and troughs in the winter.[4] The clustering of suicides in summer months was most pronounced in areas north of the Arctic Circle.[4] Regional variations were also observed with suicide rates in northern parts of west Greenland being higher than in southern parts.[9]

Suicide rates are higher for men than women. Among those who die by suicide, the greater part are young men between the ages of 15 and 24. Unlike in other Western countries, the suicide rate in Greenland decreases with age.[9]

Methods of suicide in Greenland (based on a study of 1286 cases)

  Hanging (46%)
  Shooting (37%)
  Jumping from heights (2%)
  Cutting with sharp objects (1%)
  Drowning (4%)
  Poisoning (5%)
  Unspecified (1%)
  Other (4%)


Several reasons are blamed for Greenland's high rate of suicide, including alcoholism, depression, poverty, conflict-ridden relationship with spouse, and dysfunctional parental homes. According to a report published in 2009, the suicide rate in Greenland increases during the summer. Researchers have blamed insomnia caused by incessant daylight.[10]

Culture clash between the traditional Inuit culture and modern Western culture is also assumed to be a contributing factor.[11]

Common methodsEdit

Violent methods were used in 95% of suicide deaths.[4] The most common methods were hanging (46%) and shooting (37%);[4] other methods, such as jumping from heights, cutting with sharp objects, drowning, overdose of medication, and poisoning were also used, but less frequently.[9]

Suicide preventionEdit

Greenland's government and international and national organizations have undertaken efforts and initiatives to prevent suicides. There are associations that provide support for people who feel suicidal. Measures include posters placed along the roads, which read: "The call is free. No one is alone. Don't be alone with your dark thoughts. Call."[2][4] Suicide consultants show films discouraging teenage suicide attempts.[7] The first national suicide prevention strategy was initiated in 2005, followed by another in 2013 that involves courses, education, local communities and professionals (such as teachers, social workers and doctors).[3] It also highlighted a number of places where further studies are needed.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Unless otherwise stated all statistics are from WHO: "Suicide rates per 100,000 by country, year and sex (Table)". World Health Organization. 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-01-22. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  2. ^ a b c "The Suicide Capital of the World". 9 October 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Departementet for Sundhed og Infrastruktur (2013), National strategi for selvmordsforebyggelse i Grønland 2013-2019 (National Strategy for suicide prevention in Greenland 2013-2019) (PDF), Naalakkersuisut (Government of Greenland)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Björkstén, K. S.; Kripke, D. F.; Bjerregaard, P. (2009). "Accentuation of suicides but not homicides with rising latitudes of Greenland in the sunny months". BMC Psychiatry. 9: 20. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-20. PMC 2685778. PMID 19422728.
  5. ^ Harding, Katherine (16 July 2007), Nunavut reeling from soaring suicide rate; Territory's leaders are in denial and government efforts to address the crisis are weak, expert says, Iqaluit, Nunavut: The Globe and Mail
  6. ^ Hicks, Jack (2007), "The social determinants of elevated rates of suicide among Inuit youth" (PDF), Indigenous Affairs, 4, 07: 30–37
  7. ^ a b "Singing to end teen suicide in Greenland". 7 December 2010. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Hannah Sargeant, Rebecca Forsyth, and Alexandra Pitman: The Epidemiology of Suicide in Young Men in Greenland: A Systematic Review Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Nov; 15(11): 2442.
  9. ^ a b c Markus J. Leineweber. "Modernization and Mental Health: Suicide among the Inuit in Greenland". Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  10. ^ "Greenland's Constant Summer Sunlight Linked To Summer Suicide Spike". Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  11. ^ Nils Retterstøl (1993). Suicide. Cambridge University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-521-42099-0. Retrieved 16 March 2013.