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Age Patterns of Suicide and Homicide Mortality Rates in High-Income Nations

NCJ Number
Social Forces Volume: 80 Issue: 1 Dated: September 2001 Pages: 251-282
Fred C. Pampel; John B. Williamson
Date Published
September 2001
32 pages
This article presents the age patterns of suicide and homicide mortality rates in high-income nations.
Suicide rates tend to increase and homicide victimization rates tend to decrease with age in most nations. However, the degree of increase and decrease varies over time and across nations. Some nations more than others show a worsening of youth lethal violence relative to older age groups. Reasons for this age variation across nations and time in both forms of lethal violence include the sizes of youth and elderly age groups, and the disadvantages and advantages, respectively, that size brings. Other reasons are family changes that most harm younger, more recent cohorts; and sociopolitical dimensions of equality that smooth the transition to adulthood. The theory and analyses address how social change and national differences modify the age patterns. They also focus on two related mortality outcomes, suicide and homicide, in order to generalize to the broader concept of lethal violence. Using aggregate data on 18 nations over the period from 1955 to 1994, the analysis examines how these determinants affect measures of suicide and homicide rates among the young relative to older ages. Results are in support of the theoretical arguments. They show that deviations from the general increase in suicide with age and decrease in homicide with age relate as predicted to measures of demographic, family, and sociopolitical institutions. Both suicide and homicide, despite having different age patterns and objects of violent action, react similarly to the determinants considered in this study, and demonstrate similar trends across nations. 16 notes, 57 references