Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Suicide in Women

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Suicide in Women

Article excerpt

Byline: Lakshmi. Vijayakumar

Suicide is a global public health problem. Asia accounts for 60% of the world's suicides, so at least 60 million people are affected by suicide or attempted suicide in Asia each year. The burden of female suicidal behavior, in terms of total burden of morbidity and mortality combined, is more in women than in men. Women's greater vulnerability to suicidal behavior is likely to be due to gender related vulnerability to psychopathology and to psychosocial stressors. Suicide prevention programmes should incorporate woman specific strategies. More research on suicidal behavior in women particularly in developing countries is needed.


Suicide is a global public health problem. Each year worldwide approximately one million individuals die by suicide, 10-20 million attempt suicide and 50-120 million are profoundly affected by the suicide or attempted suicide of a close relative or associate. Asia accounts for 60 percent of the world's suicides, so at least 60 million people are affected by suicide or attempted suicide in Asia each year. [sup][1]

Global suicide rates is estimated to be 14/100,000 with 18/100,000 for males and 11/100,000 for females. Suicides represented 1.8% of the global burden of disease 1998 and is expected to increase to 2.4% in 2020. [sup][2]

Men and women differ in their roles, responsibilities, status and power and these socially constructed differences interact with biological differences to contribute to differences in their suicidal behavior. More is known about differences in males and females in conditions like depression and schizophrenia than suicide.

Rates of suicide in most countries are higher in males than females. China is one important exception with higher rates in females, especially young women in rural China. [sup][3] However, the last decade has seen a sharp decrease in suicide rate of rural women.

Suicide ranks as the number one cause of mortality in young girls between the ages 15 and 19 years globally. [sup][4]

One of the most consistent findings in suicide research is that women make more suicide attempts than men, but men are more likely to die in their attempts than women. Despite this, remarkably few studies have focused upon suicidal behavior in women or attempted to explore the complex relationships between gender and suicidal behavior. One reason for the lack of investment in female suicidal behavior may be that there has been a tendency to view suicidal behavior in women as manipulative and nonserious (despite evidence of intent, lethality, and hospitalization), to describe their attempts as "unsuccessful," "failed," or attention-seeking, and generally to imply that women's suicidal behavior is inept or incompetent. [sup][5],[6]

The lack of investment in women's suicidal behavior may also arise from a global focus on the mortality of suicidal behavior (dominated by male deaths in all countries except China), [sup][1],[7] with this focus on suicide leading to a relative under regard for morbidity (in which women predominate). In most countries, men die by suicide at 2-4 times the rate of women, despite the fact that women make twice as many suicide attempts as men. However, while most countries collect and report national data for suicide, many countries neither record nor report national data for suicide attempts. Suicide data fails to fully represent the major female contribution to morbidity. If both mortality and morbidity are considered together then it is evident that the weight of disease burden in suicidal behavior is clearly female. [sup][8]

Suicide Rate of Women

Suicide statistics was obtained from the mortality statistics of WHO's website and human development index (HDI), was used to categorize countries as low, medium, and high. For roughly half of the countries (53.1%) and one-third of the population (27.3%) there were no data on suicide. …

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