Global suicide rate falls by third in 30 years
China and India experience huge drop in suicides, but still make up nearly half of all deaths
The global suicide rate has fallen by a third in the past three decades driven by a sharp drop in those taking their own life in China and India, new analysis has found.
A study in the British Medical Journal reveals that while the actual number of deaths from suicide increased by 6.7% between 1990 and 2016, because of an increase in the global population the actual rate of suicide dropped by 33%.
Over that period the suicide rate fell from 16.6 deaths per 100,000 people to 11.2 per 100,000. Men are over twice as likely to take their own life (15.6 per 100,000) compared to women (7 per 100,000).
As a result of the drop, more than four million lives have been saved, The Economist reports.
“While this is undoubtedly good news, researchers point out that rates vary widely between regions as well as between income groups,” says the Daly Telegraph, adding that “because people are unwilling to report deaths by suicide in some lower and middle income countries the rate could be higher.”
Suicide remains the leading cause of death in high income countries in the Asia Pacific region, although much of the global decline has been driven by China, which saw a 64% decrease between 1990 and 2016, and to a lesser extent India.
The world’s two most populous nations still account for nearly half (44.2%) of all the world’s suicides.
“The changes observed in China have been attributed to economic growth, urbanisation, improved standards of living, and better access to medical care in rural areas,” the BMJ report’s authors wrote.
In India, where suicide rate among women and young people has fallen dramatically, “young rural women have more options, such as making a living on their own in cities or attaining higher levels of education, rather than languishing in abusive or unhappy marriages” says Yahoo News.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the suicide rate in Zimbabwe rose 96%, from about 14 per 100,000 to nearly 28 across the same period.
In the UK, the global figures play out at a national level, where suicide rates among men have fallen to their lowest levels since the early 1980s.
Yahoo news cites successful suicide prevention programmes in Israel and Sri Lanka that “add credence to the idea that restricting the means of self-harm can reduce suicide rates”.
According to TIME, “the decline in the global suicide rate corresponded with an overall downturn in the global mortality rate among all causes of deaths, suggesting that suicide could be effectively reduced if dealt with like any other illnesses”.
The World Health Organisation lists suicide as a critical public health issue and reports that at least 800,000 people commit suicide every year. Its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 aims to reduce suicide mortality by a third between 2015 and 2030.