Suicide is leading cause of death in young Indian women, finds international study

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 26 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1900
  1. Meera Kay
  1. 1Bangalore

Suicide is the most common cause of death among Indian women aged between 15 and 49 years, research has found.

The study details causes of death and disability across age groups and in both sexes in 187 countries around the world. It was published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, 1

It found that deaths resulting from self harm by young women rose in India by 126% between 1990 and 2010. Suicide replaced maternal disorders (those related to pregnancy and childbirth) to become the commonest cause of death among women aged 15 to 49 years, up from fifth place.

Overall the five leading causes of death in young women in India between 1990 and 2010 remained as self harm, maternal disorders, fire, tuberculosis, and diarrhoea. However, deaths from HIV and AIDS rose from 68th position to sixth, with a 1000% increase in the number.

The study’s findings corroborate an earlier finding from the first ever national survey of deaths in India in 2010. This found that 3% of all deaths in people aged 15 years and over were from suicide. Just over half of these (56%) were in women aged between 15 and 29 years.2

The psychological wellbeing of women in India has become a cause of great concern in recent years, as they face sex based discrimination at every stage of their lives. Campaigners for women’s health believe that the government needs to adopt a gender sensitive approach while working towards women’s empowerment and formulating women friendly health policies.

When he presented the annual general budget, India’s finance minister, P Chidambaram, said that women in the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, should be able to live with self esteem and dignity. He also noted that women faced sex discrimination, especially in the workplace. The Ministry of Women and Child Development had been asked to design schemes to tackle such concerns, and Rs200 crore had been provided to begin this work, he said.

Yesterday the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 was passed in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. It recommends stringent punishment, including a natural life term, for crimes against women or even death for repeat offenders of rape. It also makes stalking, voyeurism, and acid attacks punishable offences.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1900