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Original Research

Pandemics and Suicide Rates in Spain: From the Spanish Flu to COVID-19

Sergio Sanz-Gómez, MSca; Adrián Alacreu-Crespo, Profb; Ana Fructuoso, PhDc; María Isabel Perea-González, MSca; Julio Antonio Guija, MDa,d; and Lucas Giner, Prof, MDa

Published: April 17, 2023


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine suicide rates in Spain during the COVID-19 pandemic and the influenza pandemic of 1918–1920.

Methods: Data on deaths by cause for the periods 1910–1925 and 2016–2020 were obtained from the National Statistics Institute of Spain.

Results: During the Spanish influenza pandemic, a peak of deaths in 1918 due to influenza, acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases coincided with an increase in suicides (from 5.9 in 1917 to 6.6 per 100,000 population in 1918). The pattern was repeated in the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020, with an increase in suicides from 7.8 in 2019 to 8.3 per 100,000 population in 2020. In both cases, the male:female suicide ratio was reduced in similar proportion, with a higher net increase in the number of suicides among males but a higher percentage increase among females.

Conclusions: Albeit limited, there is evidence that the pandemics may have affected suicide rates. However, the effect was most likely due to precipitation of different diathesis-stressor factors in each setting, given the different historical contexts.

Volume: 84

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