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SUICIDE

Traffic fatalities up by 28 percent in Sweden

Through the first half of the year, 147 people have died in road accidents, according to the National Transport Administration (Trafikverket). This represents a 28 percent increase when compared to the same period in 2010.

Traffic fatalities up by 28 percent in Sweden

February saw the most accidents. While last year the second month of the year saw eight people die on the roads, this year 26 lives were taken.

A further breakdown of the numbers reveals 23 pedestrians killed against nine through the same period last year, in addition to 83 fatalities while driving compared to last year’s 75, and 21 motorcyclists dead against 13 for the first half of 2010.

The Transport Administration’s Director General Gunnar Malm could not draw conclusions or definitive answers as to why traffic fatalities are on the rise.

“I think it is actually purely random factors, and if we look at the average in recent years, it is actually a reduction,” he told the TT news agency.

Malm pointed out the decrease from five years ago, where the year’s midpoint hovered just above 170 traffic fatalities. He said February 2010, with only eight deaths, stands out.

“It was an extreme month. We had severe winter conditions which made people cautious and perhaps even keep the car parked. February last year was actually tougher than this year.”

Last year 266 people in Sweden in total were killed in traffic, against 358 the year before.

But in 2010, traffic statistics began to exclude fatalities caused by suicide, which on average accounts for about 30 deaths a year.

The new quantifying method has not yet been administered for this year, which Malm said will reduce the numbers.

Malm also emphasized that looking at individual semi-annual or even monthly statistics can affect the numbers and create the illusion of a rising trend.

He said last year was perhaps “a good one.”

“I believe that chance played into our favour quite significantly during the year, and it is important to see the longer trend,” he explained.

During the first five months of 2011, traffic volume increased by 2.1 percent in the national road network, with 1.9 percent accounting for passenger cars and 3.5 percent for trucks.

“We know that when traffic increases so does the accident propensity. There’s definitely a connection,” Malm told TT.

He would not yet talk about reasons why the numbers look so grim for certain types of road users or what could possibly be done to reduce fatal traffic incidents.

“We are analyzing this, they are very recent figures,” Malm said.

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SUICIDE

Suicides increasing amongst Swedish youth

Over 1,500 people took their own lives in Sweden in 2017, 149 of whom were between the ages of 15 and 24.

Suicides increasing amongst Swedish youth
File photo: Isabell Höjman/TT
Each year, researchers at the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health (NASP) at Karolinska Institutet (KI) take a close look at the suicide statistics from Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare. This year, they found a worrying trend. Suicide amongst 15 to 24-year-olds has increased since the 1990s. 
 
Although the figures don’t show a massive change, there is nonetheless cause for concern. 
 
“If there is an increasing trend, it is an important signal that things are developing in the wrong direction,” KI researcher Gergö Hadlaczky said.
 
“We now have enough data to analyze trends and we’ve found a small but significant increase among young people's suicides from around 1994 to 2017. The increase is just under one percent per year,” Hadlaczky continued. 
 
Although one percent per year may not sound like a big jump, he called the increase “serious”. 
 
Going the wrong way
 
The number of suicides in Sweden fell sharply in the late 1980s and 1990s but after 2000, the decrease levelled off within the general population and stop declining altogether amongst younger people. For several years in the 2000s, the youth suicide rate held constant but the trend now appears to be heading in the wrong direction. 
 
“It is very difficult to determine a trend but we have done three different analyses and we feel convinced,” Hadlaczky said. 
 
The researcher said that it hadn’t been possible to determine a definitive trend until the volume of data reached a sufficient point this year.
 
Researchers said they could not yet pinpoint the reasons behind the increasing youth suicide numbers, as there has not yet been a study conducted to look at the possible explanations for the increase. 
 
“We have no current plans for a larger study but now I think there is ample reason to apply for funds to investigate why we are seeing this increase,” Hadlaczky said. 
 
In 2017, 1,544 people took their own lives in Sweden. Of those, 1,063 were men while 541 were women. There were 149 suicides amongst the 15 to 24 age group and eight children under the age of 14 took their own lives. 
 
Suicide is the leading cause of death among men aged 15 to 44 in Sweden. 
 
The charity group Suicide Zero has tried to push the Swedish government into committing more resources to suicide prevention. In an opinion piece published in Dagens Nyheter last year, the group pointed out that the roughly 1,500 people who take their own lives in Sweden each year is around six times higher than the number of people who die in traffic accidents but suicide prevention research only receives around three million kronor ($368,700) in state finances each year, while traffic safety research receives between 100 and 150 million kronor ($12.2-18.4 million) from the state.
 
“If suicide prevention work is to be effective, it is necessary to have a plan and allocate resources in all municipalities as well as county councils nationally,” Suicide Zero's general secretary Alfred Skogberg and coordinator Lotta Ekdahl wrote.