Physical illness and suicide risk in rural residents of contemporary China: A psychological autopsy case-control study
Jia, C-X., Wang, L-L., Xu, A-Q., Dai, A-Y., & Qin, P.
Background: Physical illness is linked with an increased risk of suicide; however, evidence from China is limited. Aims: To assess the influence of physical illness on risk of suicide among rural residents of China, and to examine the differences in the characteristics of people completing suicide with physical illness from those without physical illness. Method: In all, 200 suicide cases and 200 control subjects, 1:1 pair-matched on sex and age, were included from 25 townships of three randomly selected counties in Shandong Province, China. One informant for each suicide or control subject was interviewed to collect data on the physical health condition and psychological and sociodemographic status. Results: The prevalence of physical illness in suicide cases (63.0%) was significantly higher than that in paired controls (41.0%; χ2 = 19.39, p < .001). Compared with suicide cases without physical illness, people who were physically ill and completed suicide were generally older, less educated, had lower family income, and reported a mental disorder less often. Physical illness denoted a significant risk factor for suicide with an associated odds ratio of 3.23 (95% CI: 1.85–5.62) after adjusted for important covariates. The elevated risk of suicide increased progressively with the number of comorbid illnesses. Cancer, stroke, and a group of illnesses comprising dementia, hemiplegia, and encephalatrophy had a particularly strong effect among the commonly reported diagnoses in this study population. Conclusion: Physical illness is an important risk factor for suicide in rural residents of China. Efforts for suicide prevention are needed and should be integrated with national strategies of health care in rural China.