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India: Suicide may soon be leading cause of death for young women

Suicide fast catching up to maternal mortality, reveals Lancet study
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Relatives grieve as the police carry the dead body of Prasanna out from her house after she committed suicide in Hyderabad on January 28, 2012. Suicide may soon become the leading cause of death for young Indian women, according to a new study. (AFP/Getty Images)

Suicide may soon surpass maternal mortality to become the leading cause of death for young Indian women, a new study published in the British medical journal Lancet reveals.

"Compared to most other countries, suicide rates are especially high in young adults and, in particular, young women for whom suicide rates in India are four to six times higher than in developed countries. The suicide rates vary 10-fold between states with the highest rates in the southern states of India," Professor Vikram Patel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, lead author of the study, told the Times of India.

Suicide has already become the second-leading cause of death among the young in India, Patel found.

The first nationwide study of suicide conducted in India, the research project comes amid concern over a large number of suicides by indebted Indian farmers -- more than 250,000 of which have occured over the past 15 years, according to India's Hindu newspaper.

However, Patel's study found that three-quarters of Indian suicides come from other occupational groups.

Meanwhile, men who have finished secondary or higher education are 43 percent more likely to kill themselves than their less educated peers, while educated women are nearly twice as likely to commit suicide as the uneducated.

As the Times of India points out, one reason for India's high suicide rate could be a general shortage of psychiatric care facilities, as well as families' ignorance of how to deal with mental health issues. But the fact that those with educations are more likely to kill themselves than those without suggests that pressure to succeed, and the dearth of career opportunities in a society that is becoming ever more competitive, may also be important factors.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/india/india-suicide-women