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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 09:16 GMT
Suicide blights China's women
Chinese woman
Suicide is more common in Chinese women than men
Suicide is now the biggest single killer among young Chinese people, the country's first national suicide survey has shown.

Each year more than a quarter of a million people in China are taking their own lives, the study showed.


In some particular villages it almost becomes normalised

Dr Michael Phillips, co-leader of the study
But the most significant finding was that, unlike almost everywhere else in the world, more women than men commit suicide.

Suicide now accounts for a third of all deaths among women in the countryside.

The survey revealed there were more than two million attempted suicides a year in China, more than a quarter of a million of them successful.

Unique characteristics

In China, suicide is now the fifth largest cause of death, it was found.

In the study, to be published in British medical journal, The Lancet, US and Chinese researchers discovered there was apparently a significantly lower rate of mental illness among those committing suicide than would be the case in the West.

Dr Michael Phillips, who helped lead the study, told the BBC that while 90-95% of those taking their own lives in the West suffered significant mental illness at the time of attempting suicide, around a third of those in China did not.

"It appears that many of them are impulsive events following an acute fight or an argument with the husband or a parent or a mother in law," he told the World Today programme.

Method

But the biggest single reason why so many suicide attempts in China are successful is their method.

Nearly two-thirds of them are by consuming pesticides and powerful rat poisons which are extremely easy to buy in China.

"In rural areas there are pesticides in everyone's home and they (those attempting suicide) will drink pesticide and quite, likely die - very quickly," said Dr Phillips, who is executive director of the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Centre.

In China, there is also a lack of social and religious taboos against taking one's own life.

"In some particular villages it almost becomes normalised. If a young woman is having trouble, this is one way she'll express her displeasure," Dr Phillips said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"The suicides are so often successful because of their method"
See also:

28 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Mar 02 | Health
14 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Nov 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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