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Experts puzzled by Bavaria's suicide rate

The Local · 31 Jan 2011, 13:04

Published: 31 Jan 2011 13:04 GMT+01:00

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Despite its low unemployment and high average income, Bavaria recorded a suicide rate of 12.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009, which was well above the national average of 10.6 per 100,000, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Some 1,749 people killed themselves in the state that year and 9,616 took their own lives across the whole country. This was more than double the number that died in road accidents.

But experts are puzzled as to why the figures go against the research on the subject of suicide, which has usually found that higher rates are associated with high unemployment and uncertain life circumstances. Bavaria has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and among the highest average incomes.

The Bavarian Health Ministry has admitted it is helpless to explain why the affluent southern state has not made as much progress on reducing its suicide rate as other states, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung

“The suicide rate in Bavaria has been above the national average in all age groups for many years,” it said in a statement in response to parliamentary questions from the opposition centre-left Social Democratic Party. “The reasons for it are not known.”

Furthermore, Bavaria’s ranking against other German states has risen noticeably over the past 15 years. Until the mid-1990s, it had among the lowest suicide rates in the country.

Since then, it has risen above those of the eastern states, in which higher rates of suicide have been observed since record-keeping began in the 19th century, exacerbated by the communist GDR era.

But this has changed. In the eastern state of Brandenburg for instance, there were 8.9 suicides per 100,000 people in 2009.

In fact, over the past three decades, the number of people across the country who take their own lives has fallen by nearly 40 percent – and has dropped considerably in Bavaria along with every other state, though it still has the highest ranking for suicides.

Independent experts are also stumped when it comes to explaining Bavaria’s high rate.

“I can’t give a reasonable explanation,” said Armin Schmidtke, a Würzburg psychiatrist and the chairman of the national programme for suicide prevention.

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Nor does the standard of care appear to be a factor. Schmidtke said Bavaria had done a lot of work in suicide prevention, such as educating teachers, youth workers and aged care workers, among others, to watch out for signs of self-harm inclinations.

Research has also shown that suicide is typically less common in morally strict communities where taking one’s own life is judged harshly. In conservative, Christian Bavaria, this should also point to a lower suicide rate. Likewise, the fact that it is a fairly rural state with a strong agricultural tradition would normally point to a lower suicide rate.

But the number of suicides among the older age groups has actually risen. Previously, the share of suicides among the over-60 age group in Bavaria was lower than in other states.

The Local

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:25 January 31, 2011 by Gretl
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:40 January 31, 2011 by marimay
I'm not puzzled. It is rarely sunny.
15:02 January 31, 2011 by freechoice
i highly suspect the culprits might be BMWs and Beers...
15:09 January 31, 2011 by Lisa Rusbridge
Economic prosperity equals money, however money does not equal happiness or even contentment.

I also agree with marimay. It's very likely the weather is a bigger part of this puzzle than any of these experts are taking into account. People need the sunshine.
16:05 January 31, 2011 by Landmine

Being Catholic does not mean you are more likely to kill yourself anymore than having the name Gretl makes you more likely to say stupid things on a public forum....
17:33 January 31, 2011 by William Thirteen
they are boring themselves to death down there...
17:48 January 31, 2011 by DinhoPilot
Money "STILL" doesn't buy Happiness.

Work-Home-Work-Mallorca-Beer, the lack of true friendship, lack of relevant goals in life, the constant "mental" struggle and harsh weather, sense of non-accomplishment, etc... normally those are the reasons that make people from "rich" countries suicide. Why don't they check how Japan figured it out? ^^
18:24 January 31, 2011 by michael4096
Re blame the weather


Comparing Munich and Cologne: Munich has more sunny days in every month and less rainfall in 8 months out of 12. However, all the rain falls in summer - perhaps that is it

18:53 January 31, 2011 by Gretl
Landmine - It does make the likelihood of having been molested higher. Apparently you do not know anyone who has suffered through childhood molestation. Men especially struggle with gender identification and gender roles. So, while it may offend your sensibilities as a Catholic, there still might be a correlation.

As a former Seattlite, I also can attest to the weather - suicide link. Things got better after SBC and Starbucks...
19:23 January 31, 2011 by Johnne
This is absolutely unexplainable. I live in Munich and truly we have more sunny days (although very cold) than most German cities, many days with clear blue sky, in terms of "money" yes we can say that people here have higher income than most parts of the country (even europe) I think you have more millionaires living in & around Munich than anywhere in Germany. The funny thing is that Bavarians are generally fun-loving, friendly people. I believe part of the problem is the too many laws & control on citizens, that make people miserable.
19:33 January 31, 2011 by toemag
I think it's down to the German mentality, it starts with the Sie/du in the language, and the barriers they put up, effectively shutting people out of their world, and making a prison for themselves at the same time. If and when they need help, although they know loads of people and have families that love them dearly, they feel it would be a sign of weakness to actually ask for help...

DinhoPilot's take is an interesting one to.
19:42 January 31, 2011 by iseedaftpeople
oh no, say it isn't so... the highest suicide rate, in God's own chosen Bundesland?? well if I had to live there, I would probably do something to myself too.
20:11 January 31, 2011 by marimay
Oh, sorry, I didn't know Munich was the only city/town in Bavaria.

Munich happens to be in a flatter area which will help with the sun issue. Can't say the same for the rest of Bavaria. ;)
21:53 January 31, 2011 by Bushdiver
I think it's from the Bavarian Beer?
07:31 February 1, 2011 by lordkorner
I asked a man I once knew how he had enjoyed his holiday in Switzerland,he answered "depressing,no horizon,just big lumps of dirt everywhere,Switzerland has also a high rate of suicide.
08:34 February 1, 2011 by MaKo
Statistically speaking, Munich is one of the sunniest places in Germany. That alone might push one over the edge...

Personally, I wonder if the Bauern mentality toward psychological issues might be a factor here. A lot of people here tend to view any sort of psychological intervention with a great deal of skepticism. Perhaps it keeps people from seeking help when they need it.
09:38 February 1, 2011 by ukpunk1
Weiden i.d. OPf. is a cold hell hole.
09:56 February 1, 2011 by Portnoy
One word: Seehofer.
10:59 February 1, 2011 by michael4096

same results for Nuremburg vs Hanover

in general, rainfall increases as you go south-east but the hours of sunshine remains pretty constant

not really picking nits - I was seriously curious :-)


German language and culture might explain why German suicide rates are higher than the US and much higher than the UK - but, that is a different article
11:53 February 1, 2011 by devashish.bansal
A look at below link explains some of the real numbers.


It points out that colder countries have more suicide rates, and more developed countries are on top of the list. Also, male suicide rates are 4-7 times of female rate.

All these explains the actual reasons behind committing suicide. Its the lack of belongingness, companionship. Its the individualism, loneliness which coupled with work-related (thats why more males) and emotional stress that leads people to think why i am living anymore. The more developed a country is (or state like bavaria), more chances are to live alone and strive for belongingness (checking facebook) and commit suicide of loneliness.

I guess figures on wiki clearly shows, it has nothing to do with sunshine or german culture (US has more rate than germany).
17:15 February 1, 2011 by LiberalGuy

Finally a sensible comment. keep up the good work

Why people insist on blaming the beautiful German Alps for people killing themselves is beyond me

'oh look I'm have to wake up every day to the beautiful mountains, gezz better go kill myself'

wow you people don't realise how good you've got it
21:26 February 1, 2011 by DOZ
Prosperity equals drugs, and drugs equal suicide. Just look to Canada and the U.S.A.R.
22:22 February 1, 2011 by willowsdad
It's the smoking ban. Everyone knows puritanical societies are murder on the soul.
23:33 February 1, 2011 by honeybee0414
Its because Germans are under too much pressure. If they don't finish college or the university... its like they are considered losers. In other parts of the world, that doesn't happen. Its more about life experience than a stupid piece of paper that says u had the patience to sit through 4 years of college. I graduated with a bachelor's degree but I could assure you that I got more education dealing with REAL life experiences.

And this is what makes ppl kill themselves... the pressure to be perfect!! People and Parents need to travel more and see whats going on in other parts of the world! That way they can appreciate that Germany has alot to offer.

The other day I read on the newspaper that "OMG, the S-Bahn/U-Bahn are experiencing too many delays"... BIG SH#T!!! In other parts of the world, u just have to wait for the bus to come! This is why I laugh when I see people huff and puff because there is a 5-10 mins delay. People need to just CHILL OUT!

The End!
08:35 February 2, 2011 by authun

"If they don't finish college or the university... its like they are considered losers"

Utterly ignorant remark, that - German-speaking society is almost the polar opposite in terms of valuing/judging those with ambitions requiring less education (in comparison to the States the past thirty years, for example). In the U.S. more so, obtaining a piece of paper, no matter how dubious the institution, is of utmost important to Mommy and Daddy, and everyone else, it seems. I will give you that German-speaking society is painfully blind in judging others based upon grades and certification, but this is another matter.

In any case, nobody has mentioned the (clear) explanation I know from living in the similar culture of Austria: this being the conformist nature of those societies. The success lends to it: as a female, if you aren't cute enough, laugh at the crappy jokes enough or act happy enough in general, you fall by the wayside. The men merely have to be successful enough in their careers. When everybody else is doing well and/or is so happy, not doing/being so contrasts that much more with the rest. It's a relative world.
11:43 February 2, 2011 by aschwab
First, I absolutely agree with toemag's comments.

But really?? A show of hands from the Bavarian public..who is really surprised by the high suicide rate in this area?

Yes, yes...the lack of sun can lead to depression. No doubt. Being "cut in line" as if you are invisible, not being greeted by cashiers and other store workers as if you aren't important, being physically pushed out of the way instead of hearing "excuse me" (heck, you don't even have to say please), and not being told thank you for holding a door open or receiving a hello back when you speak to somebody, these are things that could cause an already depressed person to the brink of suicide.

The general Bavarian public would probably see a drastic decrease in suicides if people were just polite to one another, whether you know the person or not. Stranger-to-stranger contact is more important than many realize. Bavaria is a beautiful area (sun or not)...if only the Bavarian people (in general) were as welcoming and beautiful.
17:44 February 2, 2011 by frankiep
Have to agree with Honeybee on at least one point. Germans in general, at least from my observations, are completely wound up ALL THE TIME. I am continually amazed at just how difficult it is, again this is just from my observations, for Germans to simply relax and not be so uptight and on edge about everything. Call me crazy, but I really believe that the German tendency of always being brutally direct and to the point, and nitpicking any little real or perceived imperfection is extremely prevalent in the culture. Just watch what happens to the average German when things don't go exactly according to their plans....count how many seconds it takes before someone utters the word 'katastrophe' in total frustration even in regards to the most trivial matters. This sort of inflexible and, dare I say it, anal, mentality just has to take its toll on ones mental well being. Just my two cents on the matter.
20:44 February 2, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Drinking too much leads to depression.

Obesity leads to depression.

Boredom leads to depression.

Being at the top of the financial ladder and still being miserable leads to depression.

Depression leads to Divorce and Job failure and leads to suicide.

Life am GIPFEL is not always, Schampus und Weiss Wurste. But, someones gotta do it;)
00:14 February 3, 2011 by honeybee0414
authun... where are u from?
00:59 February 3, 2011 by derExDeutsche
@ authun

'as a female, if you aren't cute enough, laugh at the crappy jokes enough or act happy enough in general, you fall by the wayside. '

yup. I can totally see how that happens.

And Shopping in Munich is an experience based one part in rudeness/ one part in highway robbery, yes. and the sexist elitist snobbery is pervasive, yes. yes. and yes. lets face it, outside of Bier und Schweinsbraten, Munich kind of sucks. But look at it this way, you could be living in Nurnberg. And there is no way I am explaining what a 'Dampfnudel' is.;)

I realize you're in Austria, but there are, as you mentioned, similarities.
01:58 February 3, 2011 by Samoht
LOL, so much German hate.

09:19 February 3, 2011 by Gaffers
It's obvious why suicide rates are on the up. Bavarians can no longer get a table at the Oktoberfest due to too many tourists. Without the Wiesn where's the point in living?
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