A recent study from the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong found that suicides in China have dropped to among the lowest levels in the world.
From 23.2 suicides per every 100, 000 people annually from the years 1995-1999, suicides declined to an average annual rate of 9.8 per 100, 000 from 2009 to 2011 (a 58% drop), The Economist relayed.
According to the same report:
The most dramatic shift has been in the figures for rural women under 35. Their suicide rate appears to have dropped by as much as 90% […].
Scholars suspect that the number of suicides is underreported in official figures (the official suicide rate nationally was 6.9 per 100,000 in 2012) and they make adjustments for that in their calculations. But in several studies, as well as in official data, the long-term decline in suicides has been marked across the spectrum, in rural and urban areas and among men and women from almost all age groups […].
Two intertwined social forces are driving the reduction: migration and the rise of an urban middle class. Moving to the cities to work, even if to be treated as second-class citizens when they get there, has been the salvation of many rural young women, liberating them from parental pressures, bad marriages, overbearing mothers-in-law and other stresses of poor, rural life […].
Since rural dwellers accounted for most suicides, so the national rate has fallen, too. In 20 years, as the population went from mostly rural to more than half urban, the official national suicide rate dropped by 63%.
Suicides among urban residents are also dropping […]. The University of Hong Kong researchers found that urban suicides had dropped to 5.3 per 100,000 between 2002 and 2011, a fall of 59%. The simplest explanation is that, in spite of concerns about pollution, food safety and property prices, living standards and general satisfaction with urban life have gone up.
Yet China may be hitting a worrisome turning point as it ages and becomes more wealthy. Suicides rose slightly after the 2008 financial crisis, and may continue to do so if the economy slows more dramatically. The forces that shaped suicide’s decline in China—migration and rising urban living standards—are losing steam as well.
The biggest threat right now comes from the resurgence of high rates of suicide among the elderly, a portion of the Chinese population that is growing fast.
China’s notoriously stressful education culture is also responsible for a number of suicides among school-aged students.
Notably, suicides of Chinese officials have gone up since Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption crusade.
Meanwhile, Chinese firemen have developed an incredibly efficient technique to stop people from making deadly jumps.
No one should ever have to feel like death is the only answer. For anyone seeking help, the number for the Life Education and Crisis Intervention Center is 021-5161-9995. Further support is available from LifeLineShanghai on 021-6279-8990.
By Aliaume Leroy