Japan is famous for committing suicide - as many people kill themselves using rope as Americans, with a much larger population, do with guns - but they may have more accurate numbers than western countries, according to a new paper. 

In western countries, suicide or accident is determined by a coroner. When it's a drug overdose versus a suicide is subjective, only guns are sure to be consistently implicated in a suicide, because gun control is part of a control war, where no one is quite sure what to make of drugs.

In the UK, most guns are banned so suicide or accident is even more subjective than in the U.S. and a new analysis says the official figures are low,

New research from Bournemouth University challenges these official figures, with a series of Under-Reported Suicides (URS) potentially discovered through the study. The study analyzed suicides, accidental deaths and Undetermined Death (UnD) by age and sex and found that UK youth (15-24 years) suicides for both sexes was the same as the number of Undetermined Deaths at a ratio of 1:1.

No other country had such a close link. Moreover, the UK had a disproportionately higher number of Undetermined Deaths in every age band than any other country. 

Professor Colin Pritchard, who led the study, explains, “Essentially, when a death occurs, coroners have to decide whether the death was suicide - which could be hurtful to the family - or whether it is an accident or give Open Verdict because they could not decide which. It is then categorized in World Health Organisation (WHO) stats as an Undetermined Death (UnD) and it is amongst UnD that under-reported suicides are more likely. As an UnD method of dying is very similar to how people kill themselves it is probably the source of underreported suicide.” 

Other countries with likely higher Under-Reported Suicides were Portugal, Switzerland whilst various countries had suspiciously high UnD for women or elderly people.

 “The practical implications of these results means the problem of suicide is being over-looked, for example every year since 2001, the UK have had more people officially dying with a verdict of suicide than all who died during the 9/11 tragedy in the US - and this study suggests British suicide figures are even higher," according to Pritchard. “Consequently it is easier to make `hidden’ cuts to the Mental Health services which compound these tragedies, when more accurate figures may suggest that money needs to be given to help those with mental health conditions that may lead to suicide in the future. Essentially, by under-reporting the number of suicides in this country, we are masking the loss from suicide and failing to prevent these family tragedies because of an inadequately resourced service.”

Citation: Colin Pritchard, Lars Hansen, 'Examining Undetermined and Accidental Deaths as a Source of `Under-Reported-Suicide’ by AG and Sex in Twenty Western Countries', Community Mental Health Journal, 51, 365-376. Doi: 10.1007/s10597-014-9810-z.