Suicide is the leading cause of death for Chinese people aged 15 to 34, and the fifth biggest killer - after cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and accidental death - among all age groups, a report by the Chinese Association for Mental Health said Tuesday.
On average there is one suicide and eight attempts every two minutes on the mainland, leading to more than 250,000 deaths a year, it said.
Yang Fude, vice-president of Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, which specializes in mental health, said China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, particularly among rural women.
"It is also one of the few countries where rural suicides outnumber urban suicides," he told China Daily.
"In China, the ratio is three to one," he said.
Yang was speaking on the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day, organized by the World Health Organization.
According to the report, 50 percent of all suicides on the mainland involve women from rural areas, the majority of whom drink pesticide to end their lives.
Family disputes, work pressures, poor educational opportunities and limited levels of social interaction are the main causes, it said.
Zhu Wanli, who specializes in suicide intervention, said marriage disputes are still the main cause of suicide, accounting for 30 percent of all cases.
"Changes in society have led to an increase in the number of extramarital relationships and these in turn have led to more disputes between husbands and wives," Zhu was quoted as saying Tuesday by the Chongqing Evening News.
Pressure at work and home is the second biggest cause of suicides, accounting for about 20 percent, the report said.
It also said the suicide rate among senior citizens in rural areas was six times that of their peers in urban areas.
"Senior citizens are becoming increasingly fragile, both physically and spiritually," Yang said.
"As more farmers migrate to the city to work, elderly people are becoming isolated and feel less secure," he said.
Meanwhile, a recent study by health authorities in Foshan, Guangdong province, found that 17 percent of junior high schoolgirls had contemplated suicide, Nanfang Daily reported Tuesday.
Pressure to do well at school, and feelings of isolation and loneliness were the main reasons given, the report said.
(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2008)