Exploring the increase in suicide by asphyxia and inert gas in Los Angeles County: Who is choosing this method of suicide?
Suicide involving asphyxia with a plastic bag or mask over the head and the inhalation of an inert gas has been advocated by right-to-die groups for terminally ill patients. While this is a relatively uncommon suicide method, the number of these deaths has been increasing in Los Angeles County. We examine these deaths for a nine-year period.
Examining data from the Los Angeles County Coroner for the years 2005-2013 we identified 127 cases and analyzed trends and decedent demographics. For a subset of cases, we examined death circumstances (mental health diagnosis, etc.) and compared them to circumstances surrounding other methods of suicide.
We found that the annual number of asphyxia/inert gas suicides generally increased during the nine-year period. There was an average of just over 8 cases per year between 2005 and 2008, but over 18 cases per year between 2009 and 2013. The majority of these deaths were male (79%), either White (74%) or Asian (13%), and under the age of 55 (66%). Victims of both this method and other suicides reported similar levels of mental and physical health problems, but asphyxia/inert gas suicide victims were more likely to leave a suicide note.
This method of suicide is becoming increasingly common in Los Angeles County. Many victims had been diagnosed with a mental health problem. Treatment providers should be aware of the potential for patients to choose this method of suicide.
Explain how the number of suicides involving asphyxia and an inert gas have been increasing in Los Angeles County. Describe how the demographics of the victims of suicides involving asphyxia and an inert gas differ from victims of other methods of suicide.
Keyword(s): Suicide, Surveillance
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have participated in the development of the research questions, along with the gathering, abstraction, analysis and interpretation of the data. I am a research analyst with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Injury and Violence Prevention Program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.