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Suicide in China has declined since the 1990s. However, there has been limited investigation of the potential spatiotemporal variation and social determinants of suicide during subsequent periods.
Annual suicide counts from 2006 to 2012 stratified by county, 5-year age group (⩾15 years) and gender were obtained from the Chinese Disease Surveillance Points system. Trends and geographic differentials were examined using multilevel negative binomial regression models to explore spatiotemporal variation in suicide, and the role of key sociodemographic factors associated with suicide.
The suicide rate (per 100 000) in China decreased from 14.7 to 9.1, 2006–2012. Rates of suicide were higher in males than females and increased substantially with age. Suicide rates were higher in rural areas compared with urban areas; however, urban–rural disparities reduced over time with a faster decline for rural areas. Within both urban and rural areas, higher rates of suicide were evident in areas with lower socio-economic circumstances (SEC) [rate ratio (RR) 1.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.31–2.62]. Suicide rates varied more than twofold (median RR 2.06) across counties, and were highest in central and southwest regions of China. A high proportion of the divorced population, especially for younger females, was associated with lower suicide rates (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.46–0.79).
Geographic variations for suicide should be taken into account in policy making, particularly for older males living in rural areas and urban areas with low SEC. Measures to reduce disparities in socio-economic level and alleviate family relation stress are current priorities.
Interest in features of our local environments that may promote better mental health and wellbeing continues to rise among decision makers. Our purpose was to highlight a selection of these challenges and some promising avenues for enhancing the quality of evidence.
An analysis of approximately 267, 000 people was used to test the local relative deprivation hypothesis, wherein the shortfall of a person's socioeconomic circumstances from their neighbours is said to impact negatively upon mental health. This case was used to anchor further discussion of challenges to identifying and interpreting genuine ‘place effects’ from spurious correlations.
A Median Odds Ratio of 1.29 computed via multilevel logistic regression showed that the odds of experiencing psychological distress (as measured by the Kessler score) varied by geographical area. Approximately 67% of this was attributed to a cross-classified measure of household income and neighbourhood deprivation. Compared to people on high incomes living in affluent neighbourhoods, the odds ratio of psychological distress for people on low incomes in affluent areas was 4.73 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 4.39, 5.09), whereas that for people on low incomes in deprived areas was significantly higher at 5.83 (95% CI 5.41, 6.28).
While no evidence was found to support local relative deprivation hypothesis, the pattern suggests that more affluent areas may contain features that are conducive to better mental health. Selection of bespoke geographical boundaries, use of directed acyclic graphs and more evaluations of natural experiments are likely to be important in taking the field of enquiry onwards.
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