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Spectator Index tweet exaggerates Nigeria’s suicide rate

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Spectator Index tweet exaggerates Nigeria’s suicide rate

28th September 2018

By: Africa Check


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Popular for the facts and figures it tweets, the Spectator Index posted a list of the suicide rates in different countries earlier this year.

The Twitter handle, which has over 700 000 followers, tweeted that Nigeria had 15 suicides per 100 000 people every year, just behind India’s 16 and ahead of the United States’ 12.6.  It cited WHO – the World Health Organization – as the source of its data.


Some users questioned the tweet.

“I certainly don’t believe this data about Nigeria. 15 suicides for every 100 000?!!! Nigeria has a far, far lower suicide rate,” a user replied.


WHO data tells a different story

As was the case with our previous four fact-checks of Spectator Index tweets, Africa Check didn’t get a response to our request for a link to the source of its information. (Note: The account is “completely unrelated” to the Spectator magazine in the UK, the publication’s online editor, Lara Pendergrast, told us.)

The WHO defines the suicide mortality rate as the number of suicide deaths in a year, divided by the population and multiplied by 100 000.

In countries that don’t have high-quality death registration data, like Nigeria, estimates of the causes of death are calculated from other data. These include household surveys where relatives are asked how their loved one died to identify the probable cause of death (called verbal autopsy), data from a sample registration system, such as the deaths recorded in a specific hospital, or from specifically planned studies.

The most recent data on global mortality rates by causes can be found in the WHO’s 2016 Global Health Observatory data repository. It puts Nigeria’s suicide rate at 9.5 cases per 100 000 of the population in 2016. The rate was slightly higher for men (9.9) than women (9.2).

In fact, data from the Global Health Observatory shows that since 2000, Nigeria has never recorded a suicide rate as high as 15 cases per 100 000.

‘Nigerians don’t easily give up’

Prof Oni Fagbohungbe, a psychologist at the University of Lagos, said he didn’t believe Nigeria’s suicide rate had increased to 15 per 100 000 people.

“What I think is that social media has blown up the issue. Whenever a suicide case occurs, it goes viral on social media.

“Nigerians don’t easily give up in life. However, a number of factors are triggering suicides in Nigeria – depression that persists over a long period; frustration; denial; persistent sickness; and individual’s threshold to issues.”

The WHO strongly cautions against its suicide data being used to compare different countries as levels of underreporting can differ a lot, Gretchen Stevens of the WHO’s department of Health Statistics and Information Services previously told Africa Check.

Conclusion: WHO estimates Nigeria’s suicide rate at 9.5 deaths per 100 000 people in 2016

The Spectator Index tweeted a list of suicide rates in different countries. It put Nigeria’s rate at 15 suicides a year per 100 000 people, and gave the World Health Organization (WHO) as the source of its data.

The WHO’s 2016 Global Health Observatory data repository estimates Nigeria’s suicide rate to be 9.5 deaths per 100 000 in 2016. In the data, recorded since 2000, Nigeria’s suicide rate is never as high as 15 per 100 000 in a year.

An expert said he didn’t believe Nigeria’s suicide rate could have risen as high as 15 per 100 000. And the WHO says its suicide data shouldn’t be used for comparisons between countries.

Researched by Motunrayo Joel, Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website


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