Cuba: 15,473 suicides in a decade

by Ivette Leyva Martinez  (Cafe Fuerte)

Suicide.  Photo: Cafefuerte
Suicide. Photo: Cafefuerte

HAVANA TIMES — A total of 1,491 Cubans killed themselves last year in Cuba, raising the number to 15,473 self-inflicted deaths in the last decade, according to official statistics.

Data recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONE) reflect a slight increase in suicides in 2013 over the previous year, when there were 1,473.

The statistical picture of ONE ranks suicide as the ninth leading cause of death in the country, although not mentioned by name but as “intentional self-harm”.

The suicide rate in Cuba is 13.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, ranking 30th worldwide according to the  World Health Organization.

Leading causes of death

The main causes of death in the country in 2013 were malignant tumors (22,868 deaths), heart disease (22,651), cerebrovascular disease (9,011), flu and pneumonia (6,091) and traffic accidents (4,932).

Unlike previous years, the 2013 statistical report does not detail the ages with higher incidence of suicide. During the period 2004-2011, most Cubans who chose suicide were 60 or older, followed by ages between 40 and 59 years.

Likewise the methods used to commit suicide are not mentioned. Studies of the Cuban Society of Psychiatry maintain the main methods of suicide on the island are hanging, burns and intake of agricultural poisons.

Since 1989, suicide was identified as a public health problem, which led to the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Program.

Global statistics

The current rate of suicide seems to point to a decrease of Cubans who choose suicide compared with previous periods. In 1987 the rate climbed to 22.7 per 100,000 and during the hardest years of the special period [first half of the 1990s] was maintained between 20 and 21.

However, doctors and the Cuban health system consulted by CaféFuerte agree that statistics could vary depending on what is classified as suicide.

“For example, I know cases of people that have deliberately thrown themselves in front of a car, but the cause of death is recorded as an accident,” said a Cuban doctor who requested anonymity.

The list of countries with the highest suicide rate ranks Cuba 30th, according to reports from the World Health Organization. The list is led nations such as Lithuania, South Korea, Kazahjastán, China, Japan, Finland and France, with rates ranging between 31 and 14 per 100,000 inhabitants.

In Latin America, Uruguay has the highest rate, with 16.5.

Worldwide a million people commit suicide annually, a figure often higher than victims of wars or homicides, states the World Health Organization.


2004 1.879
2005 2.022
2006 1.376
2007 1.307
2008 1.377
2009 1.472
2010 1.557
2011 1.519
2012 1.473
2013 1.491


3 thoughts on “Cuba: 15,473 suicides in a decade

  • “deaths by traffic accidents (4,932).” Could this possibly be correct? If so, it is astounding. In the US in 2012, 34,000 people died in traffic accidents. The US has a population 30 times as large as Cuba and a vehicle per capita rate that is hundreds of times higher than Cuba, not even taking into consideration miles driven.

  • Historically, Cuba has always had a relatively high suicide rate. This trend goes back long before the Revolution. As the article reports, the rate shot up dying the Special Period and since than has settled back to roughly historical levels.

    Comparing to neighbours, Jamaica, Haiti, Genada & St. Kitts have extremely low suicide rates. Cultural attitudes towards life, death and stigmas toward suicide have a significant effect on suicide rates.

  • Nothing irregular about this, In Puerto Rico suicide (311 a year) is the third leading cause of death, mostly men who hang themselves. This is similar to the Cuban rate a country which is three times larger in population.

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