Insulation from public pressure leads to more accurate suicide reporting by death investigators

Aug 19, 2011

Medical examiners and appointed coroners are less likely to underreport suicides than are elected coroners, that's according to a new study from Temple University.

Many of us view suicide as an intensely private and personal act and commonly seek to explain it by focusing on the mental and emotional health of the individual. However, because suicides tend to cluster in specific populations and places, sociologists are very interested in how social contexts can affect a person's propensity to commit suicide.

In order to examine those social contexts, however, researchers must rely on official death reporting. "Mortality statistics are crucial because they tell us not just about how people die, but how they lived. To understand the social determinants of health and well-being at the community level, we need to be confident that area-level mortality statistics are relatively unbiased," said Temple Joshua Klugman, the study's lead author.

So Klugman, along with his Temple sociology colleagues Gretchen Condran and Matt Wray, set out to answer the question: Does the type of office responsible for reporting on deaths impact the suicide rates, potentially biasing estimates of the social causes of suicide, such as income or divorce rates?

Specifically, in a study presented next week at the Annual Meeting of the in Las Vegas, Klugman analyzed reported suicide rates in counties with elected coronors, appointed coroners and appointed medical examiners.

Klugman found that elected coroners have slightly lower official than medical examiners (all of whom are appointed) and appointed coroners.

"Contrary to arguments that medical examiners' greater scientific training makes them more likely to underreport , we conclude that medical examiners and appointed coroners demonstrate less suicide underreporting due to their insulation from public pressure," said Klugman.

Explore further: Computer games give a boost to English

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What happens in Vegas? Place as a risk factor for suicide

Nov 11, 2008

Every day 85 Americans die by suicide and hundreds of thousands more make attempts every year. The vast majority of recent studies on suicide have focused on identifying psychiatric risk factors. However, a new study by Temple ...

Suicide spikes for U.S. middle-aged

Feb 19, 2008

A five-year study on suicide in the United States found a 20 percent increase in the suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds, out-pacing any other age group.

Recommended for you

Computer games give a boost to English

15 hours ago

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

20 hours ago

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

Healthy working environment is a salvation

22 hours ago

Contract workers in Norway often face the worst and most unpredictable working conditions. But good management and support from colleagues makes these workers more robust.

Why marvellous isn't awesome any more

22 hours ago

Using the Spoken British National Corpus 2014, a very large collection of recordings of real-life, informal, spoken interactions between speakers of British English from across the United Kingdom, Cambridge ...

User comments : 0