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Disturbing trend of suicides in China

China’s development has seen a dramatic rise in quality of life for many of its people as many people are well aware. But despite this improvement in quality of life, modern China also has some very high suicide rates. According to 2010 figures supplied by the WHO, China is ranked 9th in the world in suicide rates behind Latvia and ahead of Slovenia.

What accounts for this high rate and what are some things the government or others do to reduce this trend?

The pattern for Chinese suicides is odd. Most of the people committing suicide are women. China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world for women. In most countries, men far out commit suicide than women (by a factor of 4-5 to 1). This is not because men are more likely to suffer mental problems or more likely to attempt suicide but because men tend to be far more effective at committing suicide (they use more violent methods such as guns or jumping off buildings, etc while women tend to use drug overdose which has a much higher survival rate). I wonder if Chinese women tend to use different methods of attempting suicide than their western counterparts or whether the high suicide rate is matched by a proportionately higher attempted suicide rate.

If it were not for the high rates of Chinese women committing suicide, China would have a very low suicide rate as Chinese men have some of the lowest suicide rates in the world. I think the reason why so many Chinese women commit suicide is because when they get old or sick, many think of themselves as a burden on their families. Many Chinese women also may feel helpless because in much of China, there are few resources to help abused, neglected and poorly educated women.

In building a socialist state with “Chinese characteristics” one thing that China ought to do is find ways to support older women and set up mental help institutions that are free of charge and help educate women especially in the country side of social benefits available to them.

[Disclaimer] Many ignorant people in the west may look at these figures and think, “ahah! I knew it. Chinese society is sexist and that is why there are so many female suicides!” But the statistics in the US of Asian (and especially Chinese) women show that Asian women in the US has some of the highest suicide rates of any group and moreover, the longer they stay in the US, the higher their rates of suicide, attempted suicide, thinking about suicide and mental health problems. It’s way too simplistic to put all the blame on Chinese culture. We can equally look at these statistics and apply the same kind of “logic” and say that it’s because US culture is so sexist and perhaps racist that accounts for the increase in suicide rates the longer they stay in the US.

  1. April 22nd, 2012 at 18:47 | #1

    Mainland China like other East Asian society place a lot of emphasis on individual responsibility. It is no surprise that Korea and Japan are both high on the list. The only thing that makes China stand out is that the female suicide rate is much higher. However, male suicide rate is below average.

    According to my research, suicide is the number five cause of death in China. And is the number one cause of death of people aged 15-34. So your guess that old or sick people pulled up the suicide rate is incorrect. It is actually young people who attempted and committed suicide the most. You are right in that Chinese women used very effective suicide method:

    58% used pesticide.

    Rural suicide rate is 3 times higher than urban. Close to 9/10 of suicide come from the rural area.
    In China urban suicide rate is actually a low 9/100,000. (A figure lower than most rich developed countries). About 250,000 people committed suicide while 2 million attempted suicide.

    I would say suicide is a very serious human problem. In China study has narrowed it down to three main reasons: Mental illness, family issues, financial problems.

    Sources at the end of link.

    http://baike.baidu.com/view/7062.htm

  2. April 22nd, 2012 at 18:47 | #2

    Great piece. This is my first time to Hidden Harmonies and I appreciate the way you have handled a delicate subject without dragging China through the mud. There is always more to any picture than our first interpretation. Thanks for your insight. Jerry – thecultureblend.com

  3. April 22nd, 2012 at 18:52 | #3

    @Navigator..
    Stop trolling if you have nothing positive to contribute. Your two cents comment is one that will get you change back!

  4. April 22nd, 2012 at 19:15 | #4

    @Navigator..

    The stats I saw was for Asian and Chinese American women. I thought it was for Chinese women but I don’t know what it is for Chinese women.

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2008-09-14/local/17906183_1_asian-women-suicide-rate-asian-community

  5. April 22nd, 2012 at 19:17 | #5

    @Navigator..

    The “break down” by sex is found here:

    http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide_rates/en/

    CHINA (Selected rural & urban areas) Males: 13.0 Females: 14.8

    Also here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China

  6. Navigator..
    April 22nd, 2012 at 19:23 | #6

    I get that, I meant an age breakdown. It would actually be fairly interesting to see this stat across a number of countries, as it may also give some clues as to the reasons behind why people commit suicide.
    I think suicides are purposely downplayed in most media, certainly they were/ are in the country I was born in. I remember seeing a guy set himself on fire outside my office one morning, yet it was never mentioned in the media at all- good/ bad, who knows???

  7. April 22nd, 2012 at 23:57 | #7

    Ray – have you run across stats about ancient China? Obvious from the Opium Wars til WW2 Japan’s invasion, Chinese simply didn’t get to live very long. Prior to that, I wonder what the suicide rate is for women.

    I wonder if the new China having rid of concubines and making women politically equal to men had much of an impact to this suicide rate.

  8. April 23rd, 2012 at 09:03 | #8

    @YinYang
    That’s statistic is probably impossible to get as China doesn’t have a well functioning govn’t during that period. Life expectancy was around 35 up until 1940s.

    If you study modern data, actually more women attempted sucide than men in most society. However, as Melektaus pointed out, men used more violent method. In China, the prefer suicide method of women is through drinking of poison(pesticide etc) which is very deadly.

    Wealth will probably go a long way of alleviating sucide but eventually it is down to mental health or self perception.

  9. Navigator..
    April 23rd, 2012 at 09:27 | #9

    “Wealth will probably go a long way of alleviating suicide”

    Several of the countries on the suicide Top Ten list are wealthier than China, Japan and South Korea obviously much wealthier.

  10. Charles Liu
    April 23rd, 2012 at 09:29 | #10

    Yeah I heard the same thing, women use rat poison or pesticide, especially in rural area. Doctors in China only prescribe few sleeping pill at a time.

  11. oblivia
    April 23rd, 2012 at 17:35 | #11

    Women throughout history have passed down information about poisons, not just for suicide but also to kill abusive husbands. In the West, such folk knowledge is rarely passed on, but perhaps Chinese women have maintained their traditional deadly arts…?

    Certainly seems to be the case in Chongqing…

  12. April 23rd, 2012 at 18:03 | #12

    @oblivia
    “In the West, such folk knowledge is rarely passed on, but perhaps Chinese women have maintained their traditional deadly arts…?”
    How are poisons “folk knowledge” in the West and what makes you say they are “rarely passed on”?

    “(P)erhaps Chinese women have maintained their traditional deadly arts?”
    Perhaps? You can offer your speculations, but over here we would like to have concrete evidence. What makes you say that using poison is a widespread traditional practice for Chinese womanfolk?

    What happened in Chongqing is that ONE woman is being investigated for poisoning another man. Hardly qualifying large numbers of Chinese women for “maintaining” this “traditional” practice. Your conclusion is founded on assumptions and is shaky. Most importantly, it detracts from the topic at hand.

  13. April 23rd, 2012 at 21:31 | #13

    So, it’s very interesting information

  14. Cathy Graham
    April 24th, 2012 at 07:40 | #14

    Some would argue that it would be easier for the Chinese government to save lives by stopping their habit of forced abortions of unborn babies, then tackle the issue of people who chose to take their own lives.

  15. Charles Liu
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:51 | #15

    Cathy, you need to educate yourself on the “forced abortions” western propaganda you’ve been brain washed with.

    Sorry, don’t mean to be blunt, but you are an idiot if you still believe in stuff like that.

  16. April 24th, 2012 at 13:57 | #16

    @Ray

    So your guess that old or sick people pulled up the suicide rate is incorrect.

    I didn’t mean to imply that they were the highest group of those who commit suicide. Just that by preventing older people from committing suicide is one of many ways to curb suicide in China.

  17. April 24th, 2012 at 14:40 | #17

    @melektaus
    Well, before my research I actually thought the same thing. I was however very shocked with the suicide rate of young people, and in China, young rural women.

  18. tc
    April 24th, 2012 at 18:50 | #18

    @Cathy Graham
    There are more than one billion Chinese out there, you should have no problem seeing people doing all kinds of weird stuff. You might see Chinese people eating dogs, cats, snakes. That does not mean all Chinese do that. I believe you, “Forced abortions certainly still occur”. But is that the government policy? If not, why does it have anything to do with “the reputation of the CCP”? That might be why Charles said you are an idiot “if you still believe in stuff like that.”

  19. April 25th, 2012 at 07:33 | #19

    Any claim or accusation that do not have citation will be deleted. Epoch Times and other tabloits etc cannot be used as source.

  20. Rhan
    April 25th, 2012 at 18:05 | #20

    Ray / et al

    I think HH should re-assess your position, most article is okay but the comment is one sided, not much difference from TPD (Yin and Yang?), being a reader since FM days, i am not that comfortable with the direction you all lead to. I suspect some just indulge in what Malaysian call a “syok sendiri’ mentality. I hope you all can move a little back to the middle and not sound so anger at times.

  21. zack
    April 25th, 2012 at 20:16 | #21

    i remember what FM used to be like as well, and quite frankly, giving a platform for voices of the likes of the Epoch Times et al does a great disservice to the purpose of this site which is to convey the Chinese perspective. The Western and anti Chinese perspective is done to death, is so widely and deeply promulgated that your average non Chinese audience could almost be forgiven for displaying nothing but propaganda and prejudice about China. Almost.

    The Epoch Times and NTDTV would be credible…if they ceased being propaganda vehicles for anti Chinese forces; until the day that arrives, i’m more than comfortable with rejecting either of those two as a source.
    It’s like asking Americans to accept RT as a source when so many Americans will say-quite truthfully in fact-that RT’s journalistic integrity is compromised because it functions more as an America bashing tool. Ditto with the likes of any of your american media when it comes to Russia. If you believed everything either of those two said, you’d come away with the belief that both Russia and USA were crumbling into civil war or religious zealotry.

    Now we have something like China where the only thing most audiences in the west have ever known about China come tinted and tainted with prejudice and racism and fear. It’s only natural that sites like HH and anti-CNN pop up to address these media assaults.

  22. April 25th, 2012 at 20:34 | #22

    If anything, we have been bending backwards to allow the likes of “Cathy Graham”, “Navigator”, some porn troll (with the same IP addresses, btw) to spew so much nonsense here. If there is any anger, it is because we are only human and annoyed at these trolls.

    For now, my view is to cut the trolling down.

  23. April 25th, 2012 at 21:29 | #23

    lol, tossed another comment from the porn troll into the spam queue.

  24. April 26th, 2012 at 00:37 | #24

    @Ray
    “Any claim or accusation that do not have citation will be deleted. Epoch Times and other tabloids etc cannot be used as source.”
    I believe you mean to say “Any claim or accusation that does not have citation will be deleted, according the discretion of the moderators.” This allows for more flexibility.

    @YinYang
    My suggestion is not just to toss away the comments, but to toss away (or ban) the trolls as well. Of course reveal or highlight certain troll statements as evidence of trolling, before doing the latter. Then publish a well-measured response. (Although I must say, this is not too dissimilar to what you guys are doing right now.)

  25. April 26th, 2012 at 00:44 | #25

    @Sigmar
    Yup. The string of trolling recently is from a single person. We think he is that same porn troll who has been frequenting us not so long ago using different porn star names. He is using a spammer service – to post from multiple IP addresses. We catch him using same IP’s with different usernames from time to time.

    The CAPTCHA makes it labor intensive for him to keep commenting, since it only takes a click for us. I presume its a bit of work too to switch IP addresses.

  26. April 26th, 2012 at 04:35 | #26

    It seems there is a new troll: Lao Da. Is he from the same IP address as the porn troll? If so, make him/her feel “small” and blacklist him/her.

  27. April 26th, 2012 at 07:50 | #27

    Same troll, but using different IP address for each comment. This troll is ‘Han chauvinism’ or ‘why live in America.’

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