Mental health is a major concern in every part of the world and a rise in suicides is a crucial part of the conversation. According to the study, in 2016, India accounted for 17.8 per cent (130 crores) of the global population has recorded 36.6 per cent (94,380) of the 2,57,624 suicides among women across the world and 24.3 per cent of global suicides among men.
A study published in the Lancet Public Health Journal revealed that almost four out of 10 women committing suicide globally are Indian. The findings also showed that a staggering 71.2 per cent of Indian women who commit suicide are below the age of 40.
The study found that India’s contribution to global suicide deaths increased from 25.3 per cent in 1990 to 36.6 per cent in 2016 among women, but at the same time, the age-standardised suicide death rate (SDR) among women in India reduced by 26.7 per cent from 20 per 1 lakh population in 1990 to 14.7 per 1 lakh population in 2016.
According to the study, in 2016, India accounted for 17.8 per cent (130 crores) of the global population but recorded 36.6 per cent (94,380) of the 2,57,624 suicides among women across the world and 24.3 per cent of global suicides among men. Compare this to 1990: India had 16.4 per cent of the global population and accounted for 25.3 per cent of global suicide deaths among women.
The Lancet paper warns that “Young adults are taking their own lives in alarmingly high numbers, constituting a public health crisis. Suicide ranks first as the cause of death in India in both the age groups of 15-29 years and 15-39 years, as compared with its second and third rank globally in these age groups, respectively,” stated the paper.
The lancet is part of the India State-level Disease Burden Initiative, a joint initiative of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The reason for such alarming suicide rates could be attributed to marriage setups in India, that leaves no space for women to pursue their ambitions. Crushed between the burden of societal expectations, economic dependence, and in some cases early marriages and young motherhood; Indian women most of the times are left with no respite in sight. Lack of awareness and mental health facilities could be another prime reason.
In 2016, as many as 1,45,567 youngsters between the age of 15-39 took their lives. Ischaemic heart disease, tuberculosis are the reason behind raising the death rate in India.115,714 people lost their lives in a road traffic injuries followed by the 85,733 deaths due to ischaemic heart disease and another 79,845 due to tuberculosis.
Lead author of the paper in the Lancet Public Health, Prof Rakhi Dandona told The Indian Express that the age group of young adults was vulnerable to family/marriage issues and financial hardships. “Recent global reports showed that suicides were the main cause of death among this young age group,” she said.
“Married women account for the highest proportion of suicide deaths among women in India. Marriage is known to be less protective against suicide for women because of arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence,” stated the paper.
“As part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2016, we estimated suicide death rates (SDRs) for both sexes in each state of India from 1990 to 2016. Until 2017, suicide was a criminal offence in India, which led to under-reporting of suicide deaths in the National Crime Records Bureau,” said Dandona.
The southern states of Karnataka (SDR: 30 per lakh population), Tamil Nadu (29.8/lakh), Andhra Pradesh (25/lakh), consistently had a higher SDR for both men and women. Among states with SDR lesser than 10/lakh-population are Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Delhi, Punjab, Jharkhand and Bihar.
The statistics of total suicide deaths in each age group among females and males in India, 1990 and 2016, from the Lancet report –
“There is no definitive explanation as to why the suicide mortality rates differ so much between states or why some of the highest rates are seen in states with better socio-economic indicators. One theory is that young people in these states face a greater challenge in achieving their life goals,”said Prof Lalit Dandona, Director of the India State level disease burden initiative.
“For example, in areas of intimate relationships and careers, because their aspirations have been influenced by education and global influences while social norms remain rigid or inflexible. This may also explain why suicide rates in young women are amongst the highest in the world.”
What these latest findings show without a doubt is that suicide is a national public health emergency and the country needs an inter-sectoral plan to reduce suicides dramatically. “We need to be inspired by the fact that suicide is a health outcome which can be modified by public policies, and many other countries, including China and Sri Lanka in our region, have been able to dramatically reduce suicide rates through such policies,” he said.