Suicide in Hong Kong : epidemiology, changing patterns, associated phenomena and prevention

Written by Professor Paul Yip, Sophia G. Chak
Irish Psychiatrist

Suicide is still a sensitive topic in Asian countries. Since 1997, Hong Kong has experienced one of the most drastic changes in its suicide rate. The rate rocketed from 12.5 per 100,000 in 1997 to a historical high of 18.6 in 2003, almost a 50% climb for the seven-year period. Although we have not yet returned to the level of 1997, the reduction of 23.3% between 2003 and 2009 (13.8 per 100,000 in 2009) is significant and phenomenal ( Nevertheless, the Hong Kong suicide rate is still at about the world average, and higher than that of the US (10.0), UK (7.0) and Australia (11.0). It definitely underscores calls for participation from the wider community to tackle the problems of suicide prevention. In Hong Kong, a higher suicide prevalence was noted in males, with a gender ratio (M:F) of 2:1, though the ratio is lower than that of the Western countries. In 2009, jumping from a height (52%) was the most frequent suicide method for all age groups, then by hanging (21%) and charcoal burning (18%). As more than 80% of the population live in high-rise buildings, this provides an accessible and lethal method of suicide; the case fatality rate of jumping is over 90%. The charcoal-burning suicide method from carbon monoxide poisoning has contributed to both the rise and decline of the suicide rate for the period 1997-2007.

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