Data from the NCRB’s ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides India, 2020’ report indicates a contrasting trend in the number of suicides due to ‘family problems’ and ‘failure in examination’. While suicides attributed to ‘failure in examination’ decreased by 24% in 2020, suicides due to ‘family problems’ increased by over 13% in 2020. The impact of COVID-19 induced measures may have played a role in these trends.
In an earlier story, we analysed the trend in ‘Suicides in India’ based on the data from the annual ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides India, 2020’ (ADSI) report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
As per the data provided in the report, there is a 10% increase in the number of suicides reported in 2020, compared to 2019. A major share of this increase is due to the increase in the number of suicides attributed to reasons like ‘Family Problems’ & ‘Illness’. Especially, suicides due to ‘Family problems’ constitute around 1/3rd of the total suicides in the country.
In contrast to this trend, the number of suicides due to ‘Failure in Examination’ registered a decline in 2020 compared to 2019. The trend in the case of overall suicides varied across the states. In this story, we look at the State-wise and City-wise trends in suicides for two of the causes mentioned earlier, which have contrasting trends – ‘Family Problems’ & ‘Failure in Examination’.
Karnataka & Odisha reported the greatest increase in the number of Suicides due to Family Problems.
In 2020, Tamil Nadu reported the highest number of Suicides due to family problems with around 7.5 thousand suicides followed by Maharashtra with 6.5 thousand suicides. These two states reported the greatest number of cases attributed to this cause in 2019 as well. The number of suicides due to this reason grew by 9% in Tamil Nadu and around 3% in Maharashtra. Despite being the largest contributor to the suicides attributed to this cause, the rate of increase in both these states is well below the national average increase of 13.4%.
The increase in reported suicides is largely because of the significant rise in states like Karnataka & Odisha. In 2020, a total of 3,445 suicides were reported in Karnataka that is attributed to family problems. This is an increase of around 78%, compared to 1.9 thousand cases in 2019. This number was 1.7 thousand in 2018. Hence this increase seems to be specific to 2020 rather than a continuing trend.
In the case of Odisha, the number of reported suicides attributed to family problems increased from 2.77 thousand in 2019 to 4.5 thousand in 2020 i.e., an increase of 62%. However, unlike in the case of Karnataka, the increase is a continuation of a trend. The number of such suicides increased from 1.4 thousand in 2018 to 2.77 thousand in 2019 i.e., an increase of around 90%.
Telangana & Assam also reported a significant increase in the number of suicides in 2020 due to Family problems. Like Karnataka, the increase in 2020 is much higher than in the earlier years.
Meanwhile, states of MP, West Bengal & UP have reported a decline in the number of suicides due to family problems.
The increase in the number of suicides attributed to family problems is more among the Males compared to Females, across all the States. As a general trend, the proportion of Males committing suicides for family reasons has been higher than the females.
Among the major Cities, Bengaluru reported an increase in suicides due to Family Problems
The trend in the number of suicides due to family problems across the major cities is varied.
Among the major cities whose data is provided in the ADSI report, the greatest number of suicides reported in 2020 attributed to family problems was in Bengaluru with 862, an increase of 19% compared to 2019. Chennai and Delhi, the cities with the greatest number of such suicides in 2019 reported a reduction in 2020.
Other large cities including Mumbai, Hyderabad also reported a fall in the number of suicides. Jabalpur is another city that reported a significant fall in the number of suicides with this cause. The number in 2018 in the case of Jabalpur is 119 compared to only 22 in 2020.
In the case of cities like Pune, Nagpur and Lucknow, there is a substantial increase in the number of suicides due to family problems.
The proportion of the increase in the number of suicides due to family problems, in Bengaluru is much lesser than the increase in the whole of Karnataka implying that the spike seen in the state is beyond the capital Bengaluru.
Even in the case of a few other larger cities, where there is a fall in the number of suicides in 2020, the respective states reported an increase. Hence, the increase is contributed by places beyond the urban cities.
Most of the cities which reported an increase in the number of cases in 2020 are comparatively smaller urban centres. This points to the severe impact of COVID-19 in areas beyond the major urban centres, where the pressure of economic & other constraints due to COVID-19 measures may have been greater.
Suicides due to ‘Failure in Exams’ fell in most of the states, except in states like Jharkhand & Rajasthan
As highlighted earlier, in contrast to the overall trend of increase in Suicides during 2020, there is a fall in the number of suicides due to failure in examination in 2020 compared to 2019. The number of suicides due to this reason fell by around 24% in 2020. This is reflective of the trend observed in most of the states.
Maharashtra & Tamil Nadu are among the states with the greatest fall in the number of Suicides due to failure in examinations. In Maharashtra, the suicides fell from 439 in 2019 to 287 in 2020. The fall is more prominent in Tamil Nadu, where the suicides fell by almost 61% from 215 in 2019 to 83 in 2020. Telangana, Karnataka, West Bengal, UP, Odisha are among the other states that reported a fall in the number of suicides due to failure in examinations.
On the other hand, the states of AP & MP reported a slight increase in the number of suicides. Comparatively, Jharkhand & Rajasthan reported a significant increase in the number of suicides due to failure in examinations. Jharkhand took over Maharashtra’s position as the state with the greatest number of suicides due to failure in examination. The number of suicides in Jharkhand due to this cause increased from 279 in 2019 to 325 in 2020.
The disruption to regular classes and the conduct of fewer examinations, with many states canceling board examinations in 2020 due to COVID-19, could be the main reasons for the fall in the number of suicides due to failure in examinations
Suicides due to ‘Failure in Examinations’ were reduced across most cities.
The trend in suicides due to ‘Failure in Examinations’ conform with the trend observed in the states, where the number decreased in 2010. Dhanbad, the second-largest city in Jharkhand had the highest number of such suicides in 2019 with 90, which reduced to 37 in 2020.
Similarly, the number of suicides in some of the other cities including – Surat, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, etc. have reduced. In the case of Delhi, Ahmedabad, Ranchi, Patna, etc. the number of suicides increased slightly.
The trend in the number of suicides due to various causes indicate the impact of COVID-19
As highlighted in this story, the two causes i.e., Family Problems & Failure in examination reflect contrasting trends with respect to suicides in 2020. The possible impact of COVID-19 on these two causes varied resulting in the different trends in the number of suicides.
In case of family problems, the impact of COVID-19 on various walks of life including employment, health, etc. could have caused further strain on finances & mental health resulting in increased suicides.
On the other hand, many of the examinations were either canceled or postponed during 2020 in view of COVID-19. This could have contributed to the fewer suicides due to failure in examinations during 2020, compared to earlier years.
As per a few academic studies, COVID-19 seems to have had a psychological & social impact. Issues like uncertainty, chronic stress, economic difficulties, etc. could lead to disorders related to suicidal behaviour and elevate the suicide risk. Multiple studies also indicate an increase in the number of Suicides due to COVID-19 in various countries.
Another study identifies the risk that rural communities face. As already highlighted in the story, there seems to be a higher increase in the proportion of suicides due to family problems in places beyond the major urban centres as highlighted in the ADSI report.
Featured Image: Suicides due to ‘Failure in Examination’