Suicide: the unexpected but proven result

The latest Human Rights Report on China (2010) from the Department of State links the One Child Policy with high female suicide rates in China:

A high female suicide rate continued to be a serious problem. According to the World Bank and the World Health Organization, there were approximately 500 female suicides per day in 2009. The Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center reported in 2009 that the suicide rate for females was three times higher than for males. Many observers believed that violence against women and girls, discrimination in education and employment, the traditional preference for male children, birth-limitation policies, and other societal factors contributed to the high female suicide rate. Women in rural areas, where the suicide rate for women was three to four times higher than for men, were especially vulnerable.

Stop for a minute and think about it: 500 female suicides per day in 2009. That’s 3,500 suicides per week. Fifteen thousand per month; 182,500 suicides per year. If the rate has remained constant throughout the years, we are looking at millions of females taking their own lives in a matter of decades.

The World Health organization put together a table to show the suicide rates per 100,000 by country and gender, using the most recent information available to them in 2011. There were only two other countries listed with higher female suicide rates than China: Korea and Sri Lanka. There were forty-seven countries listed with higher male suicide rates than China. Among these were many European countries, the United States, and Canada.

There was only one other country listed (other than China, of course) that had a higher female suicide rate than male suicide rate. That country was Sao Tome and Principe. (If you have never heard of that country, don’t worry. I hadn’t either. It’s an island off the west coast of central Africa.) This country reported no male suicides and a very small amount of female suicides.

So what is it about China that makes it have 1) one of the highest female suicide rates in the world and 2) a female suicide rate that is higher than the male suicide rate?

The people of China have had a difficult modern history. There was the Cultural Revolution and the embracing of Communism. The Communist regime, while promising freedom and wealth to all, actually accomplished the opposite. But think about it: China isn’t the only country that has experienced a difficult past. Eastern Europe took a similar path to China’s and embraced Communism, causing a decline in its respective countries’ economies. There are many third-world countries that deal with poverty and need day in and day out. Plus, in recent years China has been opening up, becoming more modern, and even choosing to be more relaxed in its policies. You would think that these new trends would have the effect of bringing down the suicide rate.

What is one thing that differentiates China from the rest of the world? The One Child Policy. Imagine a woman aborting her child because that child is female, and then imagine that woman having to live with the guilt of her decision. Imagine a woman who desperately wants her daughter, but has that daughter forcibly stripped from her womb. Imagine a Chinese girl growing up knowing that her parents wished she were a boy, because then she would have a greater value. Imagine young girls being kidnapped and sold as brides. This does not sound like preservation of the value and dignity of a female life. This sounds like hopelessness and despair.  And China’s female suicide rate proves it.

  • Oedipa Mossmonn

    Correlation is not causation. It’s a really irresponsible leap of logic to say you’ve “proven” anything; as an attorney I’d think you’d know this. You’d be better off looking at the subordination and discrimination against women that’s, unfortunately, embedded in some cultures, including Asia. And we’d better look out. The zeitgeist these days in the Grand Old Party is giving those patriarchal cultures a run for their money.

    • Guest

      The GOP is more misogynistic than Communist China with its one child policy?  Come on now.  You’ve made it abundantly clear that you don’t like them, but surely you can’t really believe that.

    • AttorneyGuest

      Oedipa, I’d think you would know that no article can lay out all the grounds for proof unless it’s going to be thousands of words long =)  And that’s what case briefs are for–which, I’ll say, no one reads but judges and attorneys.  Furthermore, we’re not talking about “Asia” here…we’re talking about China specifically.  Can you really explain away the obvious relationship between suicide and the One Child Policy.  Why doesn’t the rest of “Asia” without this policy have the same suicide rates?  Maybe because they don’t have the Policy.  So, can you argue your position by actually proving your own points instead of just dissing Heidi’s?

      • Guest

         Why doesn’t the rest of “Asia” without this policy have the same suicide rates? 

        The article says that Korea (South Korea) and Sri Lanka both have higher rates of female suicide than China.  Do you know where Korea and Sri Lanka are?  Try Googling them if you’re not sure.

        • StatisticianGuest

          Yet in those two countries, the male suicide rate is at least as high if not higher than the female suicide rate, so the issue there goes beyond gender issues. The author’s point is that no country comes close to the excess of female suicide rate over male suicide rate that is seen in China, which leads very easily to the idea that something unique about Chinese society is excessively depressive for women, and she points out the one child policy is a big flashing neon sign in that regard.

    • MoonChild02

      The zeitgeist these days in the Grand Old Party is giving those patriarchal cultures a run for their money.

      And the Democrats are so much different?

      If the Democrats were really for women, why do they fight against the possibility that abortion could be linked to breast cancer and other illnesses, discounting any evidence, even if it’s scientifically and in all other ways sound? Why do they make fun of women with post abortion stress syndrome, and insist that no such thing exists? Why do they fight against laws mandating that abortionists allow women to see an ultrasound (not force her to see, but allow)? Why do they fight laws against abortion clinic inspections and other medical requirements that every other medical facility in the country has to abide by? Why are they currently writing laws allowing non-physicians to perform such an invasive procedure as abortion? Why are they saying that we need to adopt China’s one child policy? Why do they vilify women who choose to stay at home as mothers, saying that they’re holding feminism back, when being a mother is what we were created to be, and we should have the choice to not hold a job? Why do they make fun of women who choose to dress and act conservatively? Why do they fight against pregnancy care centers that give women the choice to not have an abortion, and provide women with the means to keep their child if they so choose?

      Seriously, I’m not a Republican, but I really think that Democrats are just as misogynistic.

      A few fun factoids:
      On November 18, 1872, Susan B. Anthony was arrested by a U.S. Deputy Marshal for voting in the 1872 Presidential Election two weeks earlier. She had written to Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the night of the election that she had “positively voted the Republican ticket—straight…”.
      Republicans were the ones who spoke out for women’s suffrage. In 1888, the Republican
      party asked J.
      Ellen Foster to form the Women’s National Republican Association.
      Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive (Bull Moose/Republican) Party was
      the first national political party to officially adopt a woman suffrage plank.

      The first woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.

  • prolifepagans

    I saw in the article that China has banned the use of ultrasounds for sex-determination.  You’d think a country so efficient at punishing people’s actions would be able to put a stop to this abuse.

  • Guest

    If there were a causal link between suicide and abortion, then we would see higher suicide rates among women with high abortion rates, and lower suicide rates among women with lower abortion rates.  The data from China, however, show the opposite: suicide rates are much higher among rural Chinese women, who have fewer abortions than urban women and are less subject to the “One Child” policy.  Ergo, you have actually proven that abortion does not cause suicide.

    Good work!

    • MoonChild02

      Actually, there is a causal link between abortion and suicide. Please do your homework.

      As for female suicides in the countryside being more prevalent than in the urban population, it may be the fact that women aren’t as appreciated in the rural populations, due to their lack of strength for helping in the field. Not to mention that those in the countryside hold more traditional beliefs, including the belief that boys are more valuable than girls, even sending their boys to school over their girls. As for the urban population, women are considered much more equal, so why would their suicide rates still be so high?

      Here are the studies that give abortion as a reason for suicide (note that these are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are many more studies about abortion and it’s link with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other psychological conditions connected with suicide):

      Mota NP, Burnett M, Sareen. “Associations Between Abortion, Mental Disorders, and Suicidal Behaviour in a Nationally Representative Sample”. J. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry Vol 55, No 4, April 2010.

      Gissler M, et. al. “Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study”. Br. Medical Journal 313: 1431. Dec 7.1996.

      Gissler M. “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000,” European J. Public Health 15(5):459-63,2005.

      Koperschmitt J, et al.”Suicide and/or abortion. 20th Meeting of the Group for Suicide Research and Prevention: The body and suicide”. Psychologie Medicale 21(4):446, March, 1989

      Gsellman LH. “Physical and Psychological Injury in Women Following Abortion: Akron Pregnancy Services Survey,” Association For Interdisciplinary Research Newsletter 5(4):1-8, Sept/Oct 1993.

      Speckhard AC. The Psycho-Social Aspects of stress Following Abortion.(Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1987)

      Sim M, Neisser R. “Post-Abortive Psychoses,” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, ed. D. Mall and WF Watts, (Washington D.C.: University Publications of America, 1979).

      Garfinkel B, Hoberman H, Parsons J, Walker J. “Stress. Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota”. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Extension Service, 1986).

      Jansson B. “Mental Disorders After Abortion,” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 41:87 (1965).

      Reardon DC, et. al., “Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women,” Southern Medical Journal 95(8):834-41, Aug. 2002.

      Fergusson DM, et. al., “Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47(1):16-24, 2006.

  • You all jump to some unusual conclusions.

    Especially the abortion one. Most Chinese take abortion in a rather ‘matter of fact’ manner, at least the females I’ve known did. All the ones I’ve known made that choice themselves. Who would force that decision on them and as the article says ‘has the daughter forcibly stripped from her womb’ when they would not tell anyone.

    There’s hardly much in the way of ultrasound facilities in the countryside.

    As to the study, it doesn’t give an age range, which would be very important. Pre-college years creates very high pressure for Chinese students. Basically, if they are in rural areas and assuming their parents have enough money to send them to college (which they often don’t) they still need to get high grades. No decent grades, no college, no college = they pretty much have to stay in the countryside the rest of their lives, which perhaps they don’t want.

    In any case, it doesn’t give an age range, so the possible reasons cannot really be guessed at. I will say though, there is an overall lack of basic psychological understanding throughout China when it comes to raising a child. Repression of what you yourself want to do in favor of the collective (read parents) is the order of the day.

    ps. Someone in a rural area would be hard pushed to be able to find the facilities for an abortion. They would most likely marry instead, whether they actually wanted to or not. There are too many undisclosed factors to make a judgement.

    • Elizabethschuch
      • Oh I never said it didn’t exist. I just find it strange that anyone would suggest it would be a cause of the high female suicide rate in China.

        Firstly, for there to be a forced abortion the child would have to be conceived out of wedlock, or the parents felt the potential suitor was undesirable. You cannot legally have a child in China without being married. It’s impossible to officially register one, meaning the child will never have an ID card, which would mean he/she wouldn’t be able to live even the most normal life. 

        Secondly, for the child to be undesirable in view of sex, they would have to know first it wasn’t a boy, yet ultrasound is illegal… now it is still possible if you pay some ‘extra’ money to the doctor. But most countryside people don’t have the  money to pay that, never mind the unlikely hood that they have the social connection to a doctor where the doctor might be inclined to do it anyway (for money or otherwise).

        Most countryside girls barely hold hands before marriage, never mind full ‘you know what’. Sure there must be some… but it’s a small percentage compared to the opposite.

        It’s highly, highly unlikely therefore, that forced abortion, as abhorrent as it is, is the cause for a high suicide rate among Chinese females in the countryside.

  • You people just don’t get it. murdering the most vulnerable of human beings; especially when it’s your own flesh and blood…will rip your soul. and it ought to.

  • Most Chinese women don’t kill themselves because they’re being forced to have abortions. Women in China know the government will crack down on couples with more than one child, so they’re careful with contraceptives or they voluntarily go to the hospital to have an abortion. Women who are cruelly forced to abort (often without anesthesia) are a small minority. But of course this doesn’t lessen the crime–the top Chinese Communist officials need to be taken out the backdoor and systematically executed one by one for being the murdering bastards they are (think the genocide in Tibet and now the Uhgyur people in Xinjiang).

    In spite of forced abortions, which occur to only a small minority in rural areas, the reason why so many Chinese women commit suicide is because in rural China families still practice the old custom of arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage, the woman must leave her own family and move in with the husband’s family. In exchange the husband’s family pays the women’s family for “purchasing” her. The woman basically becomes a child-bearing slave to the new family and is forced to cook, clean, etc. If she doesn’t comply she is beaten and tortured (yes, the Chinese are a brutish lot). Throughout history countless numbers of Chinese women have been murdered this way. Alternately, she might be sent back to her parents because she’s “defective goods”. Her own family may try to beat her into submission as well.

    Imagine if your parents think you’re worthless because you’re just going to be sold one day to another family to bear their children and cook and clean for them. Your parents think you’re garbage because the cost of raising you is higher than any compensation they’ll get after selling you. So, no family wants you (a girl) because you cost too much money to raise and you might not sell for much money later. If you’re unlucky and no family wants to buy you, then your family will sell you to a brothel to recoup some of the money they wasted raising you.

    So, you can see why Chinese women (and other Asian women forced into arranged marriages–child brides?) might not be particularly attached to their life.

  • Andy

    I know the reason behind this article, but where are the people writing reports on the male suicide rate being as much as SIX TIMES higher than female suicide rate in countries like Russia, Lithuania and Belarus and FOUR times higher in the USA. But that doesn’t rate a mention, does it. More women than men do it and it’s a tragedy, but when more men than women do it and it’s “business as usual” and nobody bats an eyelid.
    It’s disgusting either way, but the lack of reaction when it’s the men (as it is with MOST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD!) is nothing short of disgraceful!