Background: Despite recent declines, suicide remains a priority for China. Ease of availability of high-lethality suicide methods, such as pesticides and firearms, contributes to the overall incidence and is an important target for suicide prevention. This study investigates whether changes in the distribution of methods of suicide have contributed to the recent reduction in suicide in China.
Method: Suicide rates (2006-2013) were calculated using the Chinese Disease Surveillance Points system, stratified by gender, age group, and urban-rural residence, to investigate trends in suicide over the study period. Multilevel negative binomial regression models were used to investigate associations between socio-demographic factors and method-specific suicide.
Results: The most common method of suicide in China for both males and females was pesticide poisoning, followed by hanging. All methods declined over the study period, with the exception of suicide by jumping in males. Suicide rates for pesticide poisoning and for hanging increased exponentially with age in those aged over ≥45 years in both sexes. Pesticide poisoning declined from 55% to 49% of all suicides, while hanging increased from 27% to 31%.
Limitations: This was an ecological study of a time series of suicide rates, with risk factor adjustment being limited to population-level point estimates derived from a single census.
Conclusions: Suicide by pesticide poisoning and hanging remain the leading methods of suicide in China. Changes to the safe use of pesticides and targeted prevention initiatives to restrict access, along with socio-economic development and urbanisation, are likely contributors to declines in suicide by pesticide poisoning.
Keywords: China; Method; Pesticides; Suicide.
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