Opinion / Xin Zhiming

Suicide rate could rise amid modernization

By Xin Zhiming ( Updated: 2014-07-02 16:04

China’s suicide rate has been on the decline in the past decade but, as its social and economic transformation continues, the number of suicides could rise again.

The Economist magazine said that China, which used to have one of the highest suicide rates in the world, has seen the rate drop dramatically in recent years, citing a study by University of Hong Kong researchers. The study said there were 9.8 suicides per 100,000 people annually on average for the years 2009-2011, down by 58 percent from the British medical journal Lancet’s estimation of 23.2 suicides per 100,000 people in the 1995-1999 period.

It is encouraging that China’s suicide rate has dropped to one of the lowest levels in the world.

The Economist has rightly attributed the decline to two factors: migration of rural people to urban areas and improving living standards in the urban areas. Moving to the cities to work constitutes a salvation for many rural young women as they are liberated from parental pressure, unhappy marriages and poverty - thus reducing the number of suicide attempts among this group.

The magazine cited researchers as saying that rising living standards in the country’s urban areas have contributed to people’s satisfaction with life and helped residents shake off feelings of despair.

But the Economist also said that as urbanization continues and society ages, the elderly will have fewer caretakers, which will make life harder for them and could push up the suicide rate.

Additionally, as China develops, the situation concerning suicides may become more complicated. China is a developing country that has a serious lack of professionals and social programs to help prevent suicides, but the authorities may launch more social intervention and education programs - which will help maintain the lower rate of residents taking their own lives.

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