Suicide Now Major Cause of Death Among Rural Chinese Women

January 13, 2009 Updated: January 13, 2009

A new study in China shows that suicide has become the major cause of death among rural Chinese women.

According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), China’s official paper, the Beijing Daily, reported that findings showed that an average of 150,000 commit suicide and over one million attempt suicide each year in rural China. The information was released at a recent media seminar on suicide among rural Chinese women held at Tsinghua University. According to Professor Jing Jun from the Department of Sociology at Tsinghua University, in China, the suicide rate is three times higher in rural areas than in urban areas, and 25 percent higher for women than men. Suicide is actually the leading cause of death in the 15 to 34 year-old age group.

The RFA report also stated that Xu Rong, Project Director of Beijing’s Rural Women’s Cultural Development Center, said that the actual number of suicides among rural Chinese women is higher than published. She believes the numbers that the experts are using actually came from 1999 statistics and that no similar investigations have been done nationwide since. She believes the suicide attempts among rural women to be approximately two million per year nationwide. She said that amidst constant financial difficulties, in a less than harmonious marriage, a tiny event may trigger conflicts and lead to suicide, as statistics show that 70 percent of suicides to be on impulse. She also said that, the male-dominated Chinese marriage system leaves rural women no room for appeal on a problem, especially since the “Reform and Opening Up” which took place in the 1980s and since collective production has been replaced by “individual family production.”

Professor Jing Jun’s investigation among those who had attempted suicide concluded that most of the time the suicide was committed on a spontaneous impulse. This is much different from developed Western countries, where 90 percent of the suicides and suicide attempts are said to be made by people with “mental illness,” while that number in China is only 60 percent.

According to the report, Ms. Liao Tianqi, vice publisher of the of the US-based China Information Center, said that social problems have increased the mental pressure on rural Chinese women.

She said, “Statistics reveal the social background of this problem. In China, there is the one-child policy and family-planning policy. Human trafficking, which targets women and children, remains a constant social problem. In addition, rural Chinese women lack independence of personality and social status. All these contributed to their extremely intense mental pressure.”  

She believes that thorough research into the rural Chinese women’s suicide issue and adjusting policies and women’s work in the government and society are necessary steps in preventing more tragic suicides from occurring.

Read original Chinese article