Saturday December 03, 2022

Suicides surpass accidental deaths in India

November 01, 2021
Suicides surpass accidental deaths in India

ISLAMABAD: While road accidents-related deaths recorded a fall in the pandemic year in India, the number of deaths by suicides rose by 10 percent from 2019, taking the total figure to an all-time high of 153,052.

Indian media has reported that the number of deaths by suicide per lakh population in 2020 stands at 11.3 percent, up from 10.4 percent in 2019 and the highest since 2010 (11.4percent).

The National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) has released its report on ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’ (ASDI) for 2020. According to the report in the year marked by a sudden call for lockdown with four hours’ notice, leading to daily wage workers, a very large portion of whom are migrants, struggling to return home and then earn an income, the daily wage earners made up the largest proportion of people who died by suicide in the country in 2020 at 24.6 percent.

In absolute terms, 37,666 took their own lives this year. The NCRB only began including daily wage workers as a discrete category in its report in 2014. Since then, their share in total deaths by suicides in the country has doubled from 12 percent (2014) to 24.6 percent in 2020. Tamil Nadu was the state with the highest number of deaths by suicides among daily wage earners with 6,495, followed by Madhya Pradesh (4,945), Maharashtra (4,176), Telangana (3,831) and Gujarat (2,745).

The ASDI report classifies suicides, among other categories, on the basis of profession. Deaths by suicides among students increased from 10,335 in 2019 to 14,825 in 2020, a 21.20 percent increase and the highest such year-on-year percentage increase of all the occupation categories.

The share of students in total deaths by suicide in the country also increased from 7.4 percent last year to 8.2 percent in 2020. This marks the highest proportion of deaths by suicides among the students since 1995 which is the earliest year for which this data is available. This trend seems to confirm the anecdotal understanding of the hardships students in particular have faced due to the pandemic with the consequent disruption of education and the digital divide amongst the students from various backgrounds in the country.

Deaths by suicide in the ASDI category titled ‘self-employed’ increased by 7.67 percent from 2019 to 2020, however, this impact was disproportionately distributed within the sub-categories. Deaths by suicide among the vendors increased by 26.1 percent and those of tradesmen by 49.9 percent, seemingly indicating that the adverse effects of the pandemic were felt more harshly by small businessmen.

After the daily wage workers, the percentage share in total deaths by suicide by occupation, in decreasing order, went from ‘housewives’ (14.6 percent), ‘self-employed persons’ (11.3 percent), ‘professional/ salaried persons’ (9.7 percent), ‘farmers/ cultivators’ (seven percent) and ‘retired persons’ (one percent). The ‘other’ category made up 13.4 percent of all the suicides.

The ASDI report also lays out deaths by suicide by their cause. According to the data, deaths by suicide due to poverty increased by 69 percent from 2019 to 2020. The same increase for deaths by suicide due to unemployment stood at 24 percent, that of drug and alcohol addiction at 17 percent, illness at 16 percent and family problems at 14 percent. The lack of employment opportunities as well as the increased challenge of earning a livelihood due to the onset of the pandemic could feasibly have had a significant role in the high increases seen in the first two of the above-mentioned categories.

Deaths by suicide among students, ostensibly due to performance in an examination declined from 2019 to 2020 by 24 percent, suggesting that the increase in deaths by suicide among the students was linked more to long-term future prospects rather than exams, most of which were delayed or cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The coronavirus lockdown did, however, bring down the deaths caused by accidents. The accidental deaths fell by 11 percent from 2019 to 2020 to 374, 397, the lowest figure since 2009. This also marks only the second time when accidental deaths have fallen from year-to-year.

Road closures and restrictions on movements due to the lockdown likely had a significant impact on this trend since the road accidents make up 40 percent of all the accident deaths. Deaths due to sunstroke also fell by 744 from 2019 to 2020.