Suicidal ideation and attempts among rural Chinese aged 16-34 years—socio-demographic correlates in the context of a transforming China

J Dai, H F K Chiu, K R Conner, S S M Chan, Z J Hou, X Yu, E D Caine
Journal of Affective Disorders 2011, 130 (3): 438-46

BACKGROUND: The distinctive epidemiologic profile of suicide in China, with notably high rates among rural young adult females, invites examination of possible underlying risk factors. Although there are accumulating data regarding the epidemiology of suicide among youth and young adults in China, there are meager data on suicidal ideation and attempts despite its importance.

METHODS: Our study in 2005-06 sought to identify all potentially suitable rural participants, aged 16-34 years, from 10 representative villages in rural Sichuan Province. We conducted structured interviews regarding a range of socio-demographic characteristics and suicidal morbidity.

RESULTS: 1654 of a potential 3008 participants participated; lifetime and one-year prevalence were: suicidal ideation (18.8% and 5.2%), serious ideation (8.6% and 2.3%), planning (5.8% and 1.5%), and attempt (2.7% and 0.5%). Comparisons among strata of socio-demographic characteristics showed more prevalent suicidal ideation associated with: female gender, lower education, poorer financial perception, greater rurality of residence, and marital status of "never married" or "others". Suicidal attempt was associated with: female gender and a marital status of "others".

LIMITATIONS: The study was carried out in one province and caution is required when considering other rural regions of China. There were a substantial number of unapproachable subjects because of their migrant work at distant sites.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results revealed an apparently higher prevalence for suicide ideation and planning compared with residents of other countries, but a lower prevalence for attempts. These data suggests that the relatively high rate of suicide in rural China reflects an elevated case fatality ratio due to chosen methods. The results also revealed unique patterns for correlates with the occurrence of ideation and attempts.

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