Suicide

In 2017, the suicide mortality rate in Belgium amounted to 17 per 100,000 inhabitants. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must decrease.

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Suicide mortality rate - Belgium and international comparison

per 100.000 inhabitants

 2000200520102011201520162016//20002016//2011
Belgium21.619.718.719.216.817.0-1.5-2.4
EU27--13.012.512.411.610.9---2.5
//: Average Growth Rates

Rates for Belgium are age-adjusted.

Sciensano (2020), direct communication, 05/11/2020 and Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2020), Causes of death, code hlth_cd_acdr (intentional self harm) till 2010 and hlth_cd_acdr2 (intentional self harm) from 2011 onwards, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 10/11/2020).

Suicide mortality rate by region - Belgium

per 100.000 inhabitants

 2000200520102011201520162016//20002016//2011
Brussels-Capital Region20.117.313.414.510.312.2-3.1-3.4
Flemish Region20.218.617.218.016.215.9-1.5-2.4
Walloon Region24.322.623.323.119.920.6-1.0-2.3
//: Average Growth Rates

age-adjusted rates

Sciensano (2020), direct communication, 05/11/2020.

Suicide mortality rate by sex - Belgium

per 100.000 inhabitants

 2000200520102011201520162016//20002016//2011
females12.110.410.210.89.79.4-1.6-2.7
males32.930.528.328.624.625.4-1.6-2.3
//: Average Growth Rates

age-adjusted rates

Sciensano (2020), direct communication, 05/11/2020.

Definition: the crude suicide mortality rate equals to the number of deaths due to suicide per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Walloon (for Wallonia) and Flemish (for Flanders and Brussels) administration are information using the 10th WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) to attribute a cause of death based on the information provided in the death certificate. This is filled out by a doctor and the municipality office. Suicide is categorized as a death due to intentional self-poisoning or self-harm (codes X60 till X84), for example, intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to carbon monoxide and other gases and vapours (X67) or intentional self-harm by handgun discharge (X72). Since 2010, Statistics Belgium couples this cause of death with population registers of Belgium to exclude nonresident deaths in Belgium and include residents’ deaths occurring abroad.

The population used in the denominator of the indicator covers residents: people registered in the National Population Register, in the register of foreigners, and in the register of European officials.

The data on suicide mortality rates of Belgium come from Sciensano and are age-adjusted which means that it is a weighted average of age-specific mortality rates, thus allowing a comparison of mortality rates over time and between subpopulations. This adjustment is done by Sciensano using the European Standard Population.

The EU27-data come from Eurostat and are crude suicide rates. The Belgian age-adjusted suicide rate from Sciensano and the Belgian crude suicide rate made available by Eurostat differ very slightly, without affecting the general trend. For Belgium, the Sciensano-data are used because a longer time series can be constructed.

Comparisons of suicide data can be seriously impeded by stigma, societal and legal considerations in the reporting, and delays in determining cause of death. For Belgian residents dying abroad, the cause of death remains unknown as there is no death certificate available for them. Also, the application of the certification procedure of suicides in Brussels leads to think that the data for this region are underestimated.

Goal: the age-adjusted suicide mortality rate must decrease.

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 3.4: "By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.". In line with the second part of that target, the suicide mortality rate in Belgium must decrease between 2015 and 2030, or in other words by 2030 it must be lower than 16.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.

International comparison: considering the previously mentioned methodological issues, the crude suicide mortality rate of the EU27 declined from 13.7 in 2002 to 10.9 in 2016. The crude mortality rate of Belgium for 2016 corresponds to 16.9. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with the poorest performance in 2016.

UN Indicator: the selected indicator is related to indicator 3.4.2 – Suicide mortality rate. The Belgian suicide mortality rate is age-standardized, whereas the UN proposed indicator refers to crude rates. The difference between both rates in Belgium is very small.

Sources

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