Suicide the leading cause of death in 15-29 age group

Around 18% of deaths among young people in 2010-13 were attributed to suicide, as compared with 15.8% in 2004-06


Graphic: Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint
Graphic: Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint

New Delhi: Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 and has seen a sharp increase since 2004-06, according to new data released by the Office of the Census Commissioner on Monday.

The alarming data is in line with a recent statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that said suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds globally and needs attention as a public health problem across countries.

Around 18% of deaths among young people in 2010-13 were attributed to suicide, as compared with 15.8% in 2004-06. The data revealed that the proportion of young people resorting to suicide is even higher in rural areas, where nearly 19% of deaths of people in the age group was due to suicide as compared with 16.5% in 2004-06.

In urban areas, while motor vehicle accidents were the biggest killer in the age group at 15.3%, suicide was a close second, responsible for 14.7% of the deaths.

The causes of death for the age group have more or less remained the same since 2004-06, with suicide being followed by motor vehicle accidents, cardiovascular diseases, digestive diseases.

WHO’s South-east Asia region, which includes India, contributed to 39% of global suicides.

As the population in the region is predominantly rural, the occurrence of suicides is generally much higher in the rural parts of South-east Asia, the organization has said.

“The problem of suicides in this age group has been flagged over many years, but there has been a complete failure of the state to recognize suicide as a threat to the well-being of young adults,” said Vikram Patel, professor of international mental health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“It is essential to have a suicide policy based on public health interventions that cover various aspects such as gender discrimination, coping skills, direct counselling intervention,” he said.

The National Crime Records Bureau’s report for 2014, released in July 2015, shows that around 41% of the suicides that occurred were among people aged 14 to 30.

Patel explained that different pressures related to the age group, such as broken relationships, academic performance and work pressures, interact with the developmental stage of the brain at that age, making the age group vulnerable.

“There needs to be a broader discourse about suicide as a public health problem instead of pinpointing the reasons responsible for the action. Energies need to be diverted to saving lives and preventing these deaths,” he added.

Vivek Benegal, professor of psychiatry at the Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, said that the discourse needs to educate young people that there are solutions to these problems.

“Young people face a lot more socioeconomic pressure as compared to say 15-20 years ago. It is important to train children at school on how to solve or cope with stress, sadness, anger and other such situations. This is unfortunately not happening in schools and colleges,” Benegal said.