Risk Factors for Suicide Similar in China, West
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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although suicide patterns in China differ from those of much of the world, the major risk factors for suicide--including serious depression and chronic stress--are much the same there as in western countries, according to researchers.



Their study of the families of Chinese adults and children who had committed suicide found that the most important risk factors for suicide included serious depression, a previous suicide attempt, chronic stress and poor quality of life.


These risk factors are similar to those typical of western nations, the researchers report, despite the fact that the people who most often commit suicide in China--including elderly rural residents and young women--differ significantly from those at greatest risk in other parts of the world.


"Despite substantial differences between characteristics of people who commit suicide in China and the west, risk factors for suicide do not differ greatly," the study authors report in the November 30th issue of The Lancet.


Dr. Michael R. Phillips, of the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center, led the research.


Earlier this year, the same researchers reported that suicide stands as a major public health problem in China, being the leading cause of death among young adults and accounting for one third of deaths among young rural women in recent years.


Because the Chinese populations at greatest risk of suicide differ from the norm in many other countries, Phillips and his colleagues sought to find out whether suicide risk factors do as well.


This does not appear to be the case, according to their findings--gleaned from interviews with the families and friends of more than 500 suicide victims throughout China.


However, one difference the researchers did find was that the overall rate of mental disorders among the Chinese suicide victims was much lower than that typically reported in many other countries--63%, compared with 90% or more.


They point out that poorer diagnosis of mental illness--or unwillingness of family members to report it--might explain this difference. However, Phillips and colleagues write, "the most likely explanation is that many suicides are impulsive acts by people who do not have a mental illness."


They call for stronger suicide prevention efforts in China, including public education about suicide and mental health issues and "social support networks" designed to help people in crisis find ways to deal with their problems.

SOURCE: The Lancet 2002;360:1728-1736.