In Chile, quarantine had a significant beneficial effect on suicide deaths during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings were published in Social Science & Medicine.
Investigators with the Míllennium Nucleus in Social Development in Chile sourced administrative data from the Chilean Ministry of Health. Causes of death and hospital discharges from 2016 to 2020 were evaluated for suicides. Changes in the rate of suicide deaths and hospitalizations for suicide attempt during the COVID-19 quarantine were evaluated using a difference-in-differences (DiD) approach.
This study included data on 9026 suicides. The decedents were a mean age of 43.7 years and 82.57% were men.
The average suicide rate was 10.01/100,000 between 2016 and 2019. In 2020, there was a 19.3% reduction in suicides per 100,000. Stratified by county, there were 0.4489 suicides monthly between 2016 and 2019, dropping to 0.3784 in 2020.
Restricting the analysis from March to December, which corresponded with the quarantine in Chile, suicide deaths decreased by 20.8% in 2020 compared with 2019. In counties that never quarantined, the suicide rate decreased by 17.5%.
In the regression model, compared with counties that did not quarantine, counties with any quarantine (P =.015) or that were always quarantined (P =.037) had a decrease in suicides. The significant decrease was only observed among men (P =.039) and not women (P =.633). No trends in age were observed.
There were 18,783 hospital admissions for suicide attempts between 2016 and 2020. Patients who attempted suicide were a mean age of 29.77 years and 70.54% were women.
The average number of monthly hospitalizations for suicide attempt decreased by 5.8% in 2020 from 2645 to 2491.
The trend in hospitalizations for suicide attempt was not similar to deaths by suicide. No effects were observed when comparing counties that did not quarantine with counties with any quarantine (P =.82) or that were always quarantined (P =.457).
The major limitation for this study is the possibility that some counties or areas had incomplete reporting.
Study authors concluded, “During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chile (March–December 2020) there was a decrease in the number of suicides and a slight decrease in hospitalization due to suicide attempts. The results suggest that the reduction in suicide was affected by lockdown measures, especially for men. However, changes in hospitalizations were not related to the quarantine conditions. This may suggest that the changes in the number of hospitalizations for suicide attempts do not explain the differences between quarantined and nonquarantined counties.”
Duarte F, Jiménez-Molina Á. Suicide and quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic: do we know everything? Soc Sci Med. 2022;309:115253. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115253