A total of 1.31 lakh suicides were recorded in India in the year 2016. More than 29% of these suicides were attributed to family problems and a further 17% were attributed to illness. Thenumber of suicides due to poverty has decreased while those due to property disputes has increased in the last 10 years.
There are various factors which influence a person to commit suicide. In a few cases, the reason for committing in suicide is explicitly known, while in others, finding the exact reason for the suicide may be a challenge.
The Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI) report-2016, published by NCRB provides information of the suicides in India during 2016. Among the varied data available in this report, one set of data is about the cause of the suicides committed. The information in the report is a compilation of the information received from States/UTs and the causes enlisted in this report are based on the FIR registered by the police.
Family problems are the cause of the highest number of suicides followed by Illness.
Out of the 1.31 lakh suicides recorded in 2016, ‘Family Problems’ is listed as the cause for 38,627 suicides i.e. 29.2% of the total. 22,411 suicides are reported as caused due to illness, which is 17.1% of the total suicides in 2016.
Marriage related issues have resulted in 5.3% of the total suicides with 6,880 incidents. Drug abuse/Alcohol addiction have resulted in 5,199 suicides in 2016.
Causes which are related to financial matters also account for a major share in the number of suicides. Of these, 3,709 suicides are due to bankruptcy/indebtedness and a further 2,590 are due to Property disputes. 2,298 suicides cite unemployment as a cause while 1,172 cases of suicides are caused due to poverty.
ADSI report categorizes 16.2% of the suicides in 2016, under the head ‘other causes’ for which the cause is none of the18 specified categories. Meanwhile, the cause of suicide for a significant portion i.e. 11.5% is not known.
Increase in the number of suicides committed due to Family problems
Family Problems and Illness, which are the two top-most reasons for suicides in India have varied trends over the past 10 years.
In 2007, the number of suicides due to family problems was 29,238 and has continuously increased over the next few years. The year 2012, witnessed the first drop in the number of suicides due to Family problems with 30,792 suicides, 2117 less than the previous year. There was a major drop in 2014 when suicides due to family problems reduced by 3,723 compared to the previous year. However, the next year i.e. 2015 witnessed the steepest increase in the number of suicides due to family problems with 8,326 suicides i.e. a total of 36,928 suicides caused due to family problems. In 2016, this number has increased further.
Meanwhile, the suicides due to illness witnessed a decreasing trend in recent years, even though the number has increased in 2016. The year 2010, witnessed the highest number of suicides due to illness in the 10-year period (2007-2016) with 28,464 cases, followed by a decrease in the following two years. The year 2015 recorded the least number of suicides due to illness with 21,178. The number of suicides due to illness has again increased in 2016.
In 2007, 23.8% of the suicides were due to family problems with a gradual increase over the years and peaking in 2012 with 25.6% of the total suicides. After a fall in the share over the next two years, the share increased by 5.9% in the year 2015. It further increased and in 2016 when 29.2% of the total suicides were due to family problems. This is the highest ever share of suicides due to family problems during the 10-year period.
The share of suicides due to illness in 2016 is 17.1% which is an increase over the previous year share of 15.8%. However, this is less than the share 10 years ago i.e. in 2007 when it was 22.3%. Family Problems & Illness have followed different trajectories both in terms of number of suicides and share in the total suicides.
The share of suicides due to Drug Abuse/Alcohol addiction nearly doubled since 2009
Since 2009, the ADSI report has included the category ‘Drug abuse/addiction’ under the cause for suicides. In that year, the total suicides attributed to this cause was 2,942 i.e. 2.3% of the total suicides. Over the years, the number has gradually increased until 2013, when 4,591 suicides were caused due to Drug Abuse/Addiction.
In both 2014 & 2015, the numbers along with its share in the overall suicides have fallen. However, in the year 2016, 5,199 suicides with a share of 4% were due to this cause. It needs to be noted that in 2016, the term for the category was changed to ‘Drug Abuse/Alcohol addiction’.
Suicides due to Property disputes have increased while those due to poverty has decreased
In 2007, the number of suicides due to poverty was 2,809. After reaching a high of 3,047 suicides in 2010, the number of suicides with poverty as the cause has come down substantially in the following years and in 2016 the number reduced to 1,172 i.e. is less than half of the number 10 years ago. Meanwhile, during the same time period, the share of suicides due to poverty has come down from 2.3% in 2007 to 0.9% in 2016.
However, it may be noted that 19.2% of the individuals who committed suicide in 2016, were daily wage labourers. A major portion of these suicides could have been reported as due to illness or family problems (the top two causes of suicides) instead of poverty as a cause. Factly did a story earlier on the professions of those committing suicides.
The number of suicides recorded due to Property disputes was 1,411 in 2007, which increased to 2,472 in 2009. After that, the number of suicides under this category has gradually reduced to 1,067 in 2014. During 2014, the share of suicides due to property disputes out of the total was just 0.8%. However, in the next year i.e. 2015, there was a jump with the share more than doubling to 1.9%. The number increased 2,491 in 2015 and 2,590 in 2016. The share also increased to 2% in 2016.
The trends for unemployment and bankruptcy have been inconsistent over the past 10 years.
A total of 3,312 i.e. 2.7% of the suicides in 2016 were attributed to bankruptcy/indebtedness. The lowest number due to this cause was in 2014 when 2,308 deaths i.e. 1.8% of the total suicides were attributed to this cause. In the year 2015, the number of such suicides increased to 4,357 with a share of 3.3%. The situation improved in 2016 when (still the second-highest in 10 years) 3,709 suicides i.e. 2.8% were reported under this head.
Number of suicides due to unemployment accounted for 2% of the total with 2,394 cases in 2007. The lowest number of suicides due to unemployment in the last ten years was in 2009 with 1,283 suicides i.e. 1 % of the total. After a gradual increase starting 2012, the suicides due to unemployment were the highest in 2015 with 2,723 cases, making up 2% of the total. In 2016, 2,298 suicides were recorded as due to unemployment with a share of 1.8%.
The Ambiguity in the causes of suicides needs to be resolved
In an earlier story on Factly, related to professions of those committing suicides, concern over a major share being enlisted as ‘others’ was highlighted. A similar issue exists even in the case of ‘causes’ for committing suicide. As highlighted earlier in the story, 16.2% of the suicides are enlisted due to ‘Other causes’. There is no improvement compared to 2007 when it was 14.4% of the total. In terms of numbers, in 2007, a total of 17,653 cases were reported as due to ‘other causes’, while it increased to 21,208 in 2016.
A matter of greater concern is that the cause for 11.5% of the suicides is not known in 2016, i.e. 15,037 cases. However, this is an improvement from 2007, where-in the cause for 16.6% i.e. 20,409 suicides were not known.
Further categorization of ‘Other Suicides’ in the ADSI report and efforts towards reducing the suicides under the ‘cause not known’ category will go a long way in better understanding of the causes and to ascertain any trends.
Featured Image: Suicides in India