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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



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.


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.


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.


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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