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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Taiwan: Researchers Lead International Collaboration Finding a Distinguishable Profile of Charcoal-burning Suicides in Hong Kong

According to a new study by researchers at National Taiwan University (NTU), in collaboration with researchers based in Hong Kong, people died by suicide using charcoal burning (i.e. burnt barbecue charcoal in a sealed place and died from carbon monoxide poisoning) persistently showed a distinguishable profile compared to those died by other methods in Hong Kong.

The use of charcoal gas for suicide rapidly increased in Hong Kong after the first reported case in 1998. The method also spread to other Asian countries including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.

Based on Hong Kong Coroner’s data for suicide in 2002-2013, researchers found that people who died by suicide using charcoal burning were more likely to be male, aged 30-49 years, married, have debt, or live alone, and were less likely to have past or current psychiatric treatment or medical illness than non-charcoal-burning suicides.

“Our new study showed that an unusual method for suicide may persistently appeal to vulnerable individuals who may not have died by suicide if the method were not available or publicized by the media, highlighting the importance of responsible media reporting to prevent suicide” says Dr. Yi-Han Chang, the first author of this paper. Dr. Chang is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Health Behaviors and Community Sciences, National Taiwan University College of Public Health.

Coauthors of the study include Dr. Shu-Sen Chang, NTU; Dr. Paul Yip, professor, The University of Hong Kong; Dr. Chia-Yueh Hsu, Taipei Medical University; and Dr. Qijin Chang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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