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Marital status and suicide: some common methodological problems
  1. Y B CHEUNG,
  1. Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
  1. Dr Yip (sfpyip{at}

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Editor,—In a recent paper published in this journal, Kposowa1 reported that divorced and separated men had a higher risk of suicide than married men. Men and women of other unmarried status reportedly did not suffer any excess risk of suicide in comparison with their married counterparts. We have some reservation about the findings, and wish to point out two methodological problems that may have affected many studies in this area.

In this study marital status was enumerated at the beginning of the study period. Marital transitions between the baseline survey and death or end of follow up were unknown to the researcher. The author did mention this issue at the end of the discussion section, but seemed to suggest that the problem would not have seriously affected the findings. The failure to capture marital changes would lead to a misclassification of marital status during the follow up period and at death. The follow up period is from 1979 to 1989. Martial status would have changed during the 11 year period. For example, among the elderly, the married person would become widowed; the never married person among the age group 25–34 would have been married …

Dr Kposowa (Augustine.Kposowa{at}

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