What are the Factors Associated with Suicide in Chinese Adults?

Research Paper Title

Factors associated with suicide risk among Chinese adults: A prospective cohort study of 0.5 million individuals.

Background

Suicide is a leading cause of death in China and accounts for about one-sixth of all suicides worldwide. The objective of this study was to examine the recent distribution of suicide and risk factors for death by suicide. Identifying underlying risk factors could benefit development of evidence-based prevention and intervention programmes.

Methods

The researchers conducted a prospective study, the China Kadoorie Biobank, of 512,715 individuals (41% men, mean age 52 years) from 10 (5 urban, 5 rural) areas which are diverse across China in geographic locations, social economic developmental stages, and prevalence of disease patterns. After the baseline measurements of risk factors during 2004 to 2008, participants were followed up for suicide outcomes including suicide and possible suicide deaths. Risk factors, such as sociodemographic factors and physical and mental health status, were assessed by semi-structured interviews and self-report questionnaires.

Suicide and possible suicide deaths were identified through linkage to the local death registries using ICD-10 codes. The researchers conducted Cox regression to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) for suicide and for possible suicide in sensitivity analyses.

Results

During an average follow-up period of 9.9 years, 520 (101 per 100,000) people died from suicide (51.3% male), and 79.8% of them lived in rural areas. Sociodemographic factors associated with increased suicide risk were male gender (adjusted hazard ratios [aHR] = 1.6 [95% CI 1.4 to 2.0], p < 0.001), older age (1.3 [1.2 to 1.5] by each 10-yr increase, p < 0.001), rural residence (2.6 [2.1 to 3.3], p < 0.001), and single status (1.7 [1.4 to 2.2], p < 0.001). Increased hazards were found for family-related stressful life events (aHR = 1.8 [1.2 to 1.9], p < 0.001) and for major physical illnesses (1.5 [1.3 to 1.9], p < 0.001). There were strong associations of suicide with a history of lifetime mental disorders (aHR = 9.6 [5.9 to 15.6], p < 0.001) and lifetime schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (11.0 [7.1 to 17.0], p < 0.001). Links between suicide risk and depressive disorders (aHR = 2.6 [1.4 to 4.8], p = 0.002) and generalized anxiety disorders (2.6 [1.0 to 7.1], p = 0.056) in the last 12 months, and sleep disorders (1.4 [1.2 to 1.7], p < 0.001) in the past month were also found.

All HRs were adjusted for sociodemographic factors including gender, age, residence, single status, education, and income. The associations with possible suicide deaths were mostly similar to those with suicide deaths, although there was no clear link between possible suicide deaths and psychiatric factors such as depression and generalised anxiety disorders. A limitation of the study is that there is likely underreporting of mental disorders due to the use of self-report information for some diagnostic categories.

Conclusions

In this study, the researchers observed that a range of sociodemographic, lifestyle, stressful life events, physical, and mental health factors were associated with suicide in China. High-risk groups identified were elderly men in rural settings and individuals with mental disorders. These findings could form the basis of targeted approaches to reduce suicide mortality in China.

Reference

Yu, R., Chen, Y., Li, L., Chen, J., Guo, Y., Bian, Z., Lv., Yu, C., Xie., Huang, D., Chen, Z. & Fazel, S. (2021) Factors associated with suicide risk among Chinese adults: A prospective cohort study of 0.5 million individuals. PLoS Med. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003545. eCollection 2021 Mar.

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