India accounts for 37% women suicides globally

| | New Delhi
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India accounts for 37% women suicides globally

Thursday, 13 September 2018 | Archana Jyoti | New Delhi

Killing oneself biggest cause of death in 15-39 age group in country

The number of suicides has risen in India over the years, but the trend of killing oneself is alarmingly higher among Indian women. India accounts for at least 37 per cent of global suicide deaths among women, according to a report published in the Lancet Public Health journal. India also accounts for 24 per cent global suicide deaths among men in 2016.

The report — The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016 — which was released on Wednesday, said the suicide death rate (SDR) for women in India is 15 every one lakh women, double than that of the global suicide rate for women in 2016, which was 7 every one lakh women.

Contrary to the popular belief, marriage was found to be less protective against suicide as married women account for the high proportion of suicide deaths in India, the study stated. The reason cited by author of the study, Professor Rakhi Dandona from Public Health Foundation of India, are arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence.

In what should come as a wakeup call for the health authorities, the report said suicide ranked first in India as the cause of death compared to its third rank globally in the 15-39 age group. At least 63 per cent of all suicide deaths reported in India were in this age group.

Dandona said there was an increase of 40 per cent in the number of suicide deaths between 1990 and 2016, with an estimated 2,30,314 deaths in 2016 indicating that “disproportionately high suicide deaths in India are a public health crisis”.

The study found wide variations in suicide death rate across States in India. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Tripura had high suicide death rates for both men and women, in addition to Kerala and Chhattisgarh, which had high suicide death rates for men.

“The trends in SDR in women in this study suggest the need to further assess the complex relationships between gender and suicidal behaviour to facilitate women-specific suicide prevention strategies,” Dandona said.

At the same time, she stressed the high SDR among men in India has not changed over time and needs immediate attention.

For suicide among men in India, it appears young adults are a vulnerable group, and marriage does not seem to be protective for them either.

Personal and social reasons, financial problems, poor health are known as major reasons of suicide in India and the most-used means of suicide are poisoning, drug overdose and hanging, as known from previous research, Dandona said.

The study found that the suicide death rate is increasing in the elderly, especially among those above the age of 80 years, which will pose additional challenges.

For the elderly, social isolation, depression, functional disability, and the feeling of being a burden on their family have been cited as reasons for suicides globally, however, not much is known about reasons for suicides in the elderly in India, Dandona said.

With their increasing proportion in the population, the reasons for suicide and mental health issues in the elderly need to be explored urgently within the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly in India to address the increasing suicide deaths in this age group, Dandona stated.

There is an urgent need for a national suicide prevention strategy that is data-driven, gender-specific and takes the state variations into account. 

Professor Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of Health Research, Health Ministry and Director General, ICMR, expressed concern at the high contribution of India to the total suicide deaths in the world, especially among women. “The ten-fold variation between the states in the suicide death rate for women emphasises the need to better understand the reasons behind these suicides and make concerted efforts to reduce this avoidable loss of predominantly young lives,” he said.

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