Purposes: The aims of this study were: (1) to present the time trend of suicide rate among people aged 15 or above in China over the period 2002-2011 and (2) to examine the current profile of completed suicides during 2009-2011.
Methods: Data on suicide rate in 2002-2011 were provided by the Chinese Ministry of Health (MOH). The trends of region-, gender-, and age-specific suicide rates were examined using Poisson regression models. The mean number of completed suicides for each cohort during 2009-2011 was calculated and a mean national suicide rate was estimated.
Findings: The overall suicide rate decreased significantly over the past decade, but rates in young males and rural older adults did not reduce and in fact increased among older adults in both urban and rural areas towards the end of the study period. For 2009-2011, 44 % of all suicides occurred among those aged 65 or above and 79 % among rural residents. The estimated mean national suicide rate was 9.8 per 100,000 and was slightly higher for males than females.
Conclusion: The benefits of economic growth, such as higher employment and more educational opportunities for the rural population in particular, may have contributed to the reduced suicide rate in China. However, the recent rapid changes in socioeconomic conditions could have increased stress levels and resulted in more suicides, especially among the elderly. Despite the significant reduction reported here, the latest figures suggest the declining trend is reversing. It will be important to continue monitoring the situation and to examine how urbanization and economic changes affect the well-being of 1.3 billion Chinese.