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American Journal of Psychiatry

Year: 2010  |  Volume: 167  |  Issue: 7  |  Page No.: 773 - 781

Mental Disorders and Suicide Among Young Rural Chinese: A Case-Control Psychological Autopsy Study

J Zhang, S Xiao and L. Zhou

Abstract

Objective

The authors examined the prevalence and distribution of mental disorders in rural Chinese 15–34 years of age who committed suicide. They hypothesized that mental illness is a risk factor for suicide in this population and that the prevalence of mental illness is lower in females than in males.

Method

In this case-control psychological autopsy study, face-to-face interviews were conducted to collect information from proxy informants for 392 suicide victims and 416 living comparison subjects. Five categories of DSM-IV mental disorders (mood disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, and other axis I disorders) at the time of death or interview were assessed using the Chinese version of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Sociodemographic variables, social support, and life events were also assessed.

Results

The prevalence of current mental illness was 48.0% for suicide victims and 3.8% for comparison subjects. Among suicide victims, mental illness was more prevalent in males than in females (55.1% compared with 39.3%). A strong association between mental illness and suicide was observed after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics. Other risk factors included having a lower education level, not being currently married, having a lower level of social support, and having a history of recent and long-term life events. Additive interactions were observed between mental illness and lower level of social support.

Conclusions

Although mental illness is a strong risk factor for suicide, it is less prevalent among rural Chinese young people who committed suicide, particularly females, in comparison with other populations in China and in the West.

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