Canada’s relatively low murder and suicide rates mask a disturbing trend in suicides among Inuit people, says an Associated Press report on a World Health Organization study.

Among the Inuit people in northern Canada there were overall suicide rates of between 60 and 75 per 100,000 people, compared with 15 per 100,000 for the country’s general population, the organization said. Overall in Canada, the report said the annual homicide rate for the general population was 1.4 per 100,000 people. That compares to a rate of 6.9 homicides per 100,000 in the U.S.

Globally, the report said that one person commits suicide about every 40 seconds, one person is murdered every 60 seconds and one person dies in armed conflict every 100 seconds. Youth homicides soared in the United States, many Latin American countries and the former Soviet bloc but stabilized or decreased in much of Western Europe and Canada, the report said.

The UN health agency, in what it described as the most exhaustive international study into the problem of violent or self-inflicted deaths, examined the extent of violence in homes and on streets, the abuse of children and the elderly, suicide and war.

WHO now hopes to help governments mount national prevention campaigns focusing on young people. The report estimated that 815,000 people killed themselves in 2000 — making suicide the No. 13 cause of death worldwide. People older than 60 were most likely to take their own life.

On average, men were three times more likely to kill themselves than women. About 10 per cent of people who attempt suicide eventually kill themselves, it said. The highest suicide rates were in eastern Europe, while the lowest were in Latin America. But this masked big differences between rural and urban populations and different racial and ethnic groups within countries – as the figures within Canada’s Inuit population showed.