“It seems that those with less aptitude have lower capacity to manage difficult life situations,” explained Finn Rasmussen, a professor at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm to the TT news agency.
Rasmussen has been involved in a study together with colleagues from the UK and Australia, the results of which are set to be published in the upcoming edition of the British Medical Journal.
The study is the largest of its kind and considered information collated on 1.1 million men at the time of their national service – around 18/19 years of age.
The researchers have been able to show that lower IQ in the late teens carries a higher risk of attempted suicide later in life.
The results were shown to apply to men without a current diagnosis of psychosis. In the instance of a psychosis diagnosis the figures indicated the opposite with those with higher IQ more likely to attempt suicide.
The researchers explained their results in that those with lower IQ tend to achieve lower income levels and are more prone to violence and abuse, and thus suggesting that socio-economic factors could explain the heightened risk.
But the study also forwards the theory that a lower aptitude to stress management could exist among those with lower mental capacity. If this proves to be the case the researchers hope that it will be able to direct society’s resources at preventing attempted suicide among clearly identified groups.
Cases of attempted suicides have increased dramatically in Sweden since the end of the 1990s, particularly among women aged 16-24 but the trend is also mirrored among men of the same age. The new Karolinska study is unable to explain this increase and some experts have forwarded the view that the tough employment market for young people is a causal factor.
While cases of attempted suicide may be on the increase among some age groups Sweden maintains a fairly moderate level of suicide international, according to World Health Organization statistics from 2003.
Lithuania carries the distinction of the highest rate in Europe with 75.6/100,000 for men and 16.1/100,000 for women.
Sweden has 19.7/100,000 for men and 8.0/100,000 for women.
France, New Zealand, Australia and Germany, among others, all have higher rates of suicide than Sweden, which comes in slightly higher than the USA and Canada.
The long-perpetuated myth of Sweden’s high suicide rate dates back to the late 1950s and a speech given by the then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower which had been based on an inaccurate briefing.
The President’s speech was intended to paint a negative picture of Sweden, then a country advocating a brand of third-way cradle-to-the-grave socialism and adopting a stance of post-war neutrality outside NATO and US influence.
While Eisenhower’s speech did not name Sweden specifically, the speech and ensuing media coverage are widely accepted to have established the myth.