A new study finds that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people in India, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
The study, published Friday in the British health journal The Lancet, indicates that 56 percent of women and 40 percent of men who committed suicide in India in 2010 were 15 to 29-years-old.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for women in India, while traffic accidents top the list for men. Suicide is close behind for both genders.
The study's lead author, Vikram Patel, a psychiatrist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the findings are a warning that suicide rates in India are much higher than previously thought. The study does not explain why the rates have spiked so much for young people, but Patel said the reasons range from social factors such as financial problems and marital conflicts, to mental health factors such as depression and alcoholism.
"What it alerts us to is that suicide rates are much higher than we previously thought and also there’s the fact that these suicide rates seem to be not evenly distributed in the country. They're much more common in young people and in certain parts of the country, particularly the more developed states of southern India," Patel said.
Patel surmised that young women in India have such high suicide rates because they have less freedoms and autonomy than men and because they are exposed to more gender-based violence. He said those factors could lead to depression and to suicide.
"The very high rates you see in women in India is where India’s suicide figures really diverge the most from other countries, particularly developed countries, but in some ways it’s not dissimilar to what you see in China. So the question really is why do young women have such high suicide rates in countries like India and one possible hypothesis might be to do with deposition in Indian society in which they may have less freedoms and less autonomy and be exposed more to gender-based violence than men," Patel said.
Patel said suicide kills as many young women in India as maternal deaths. He added that suicide is just as preventable as maternal deaths but attracts almost no attention from the public or international community.
Research shows nearly 190,000 suicides are believed to have occurred in India in 2010, second only to China with an estimated 200,000. China and India are the two most populated countries in the world.