Suicide in China

Simon World’s HK Dave has a nice discussion of recent Chinese suicide statistics.

The Independent of Britain ran a story on the high suicide rate in China – 250,000 people killed themselves last year; according to the article they were victims of the country’s fast changing society. Unfortunately, numbers on that scale look shocking to anyone not from China, including the article’s author. You would need to look at the rate per 100,000, which is the measure adopted by most countries globally. There you discover that China is slightly lower than the global norm of 25 per 100,000 as provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000. However, that rate is certainly increasing if you compare it to the rate of China in 1999 of 13.0 for men and 14.8 for women, a worrying trend.

The first chart here suggests that 1999 might have been something of a trough, in statistical terms, so that the long-term rates are still open to question, but the second one suggests that suicide is the leading cause of death for all Chinese, which is astounding.

For homework, here’s the detailed country reports (PDFs, but small) for the US (surprisingly stable over the last half century), Japan (huge peak in older males since the Bubble burst), and China mainland, 1987-99 (almost zero gender differential) and HK.

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