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China has also seen a remarkable reduction in the number of pesticide suicides over the last 20 years.

In the 1990s, there were an estimated 180,000 pesticide suicides each year, often in young women. Recent estimates suggest that there are now around 50,000 deaths from pesticide self-poisoning annually. The incidence of pesticide suicides has clearly fallen each year from 2006 to 2013 for both men and women (see top lines in each of side of the figure).

The cause for this reduction is not clear, and is likely to be due to a combination of marked migration from rural communities to the cities (where there is little access to highly hazardous pesticides) and/or pesticide regulation to ban major HHPs around 2002. More recently there has been an effort to ban the herbicide paraquat from agriculture as people has shifted from the banned orgaophosphorus insecticides such as methyl parathion to paraquat. Unfortunately, paraquat is associated with a very high proportion of people dying after self-poisoning.

Onlygoing work is trying to tease out the relative importance of migration vs pesticide regulation in causing the wonderful fall in deaths.


Page A, Liu S, Gunnell D, Astell-Burt T, Feng X, Wang L, Zhou M. Suicide by pesticide poisoning remains a priority for suicide prevention in China: Analysis of national mortality trends 2006-2013. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 15;208:418-423. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27842298

Phillips MR, Li X, Zhang Y. Suicide rates in China, 1995-99. Lancet. 2002 Mar 9;359(9309):835-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11897283

Phillips MR, Yang G, Zhang Y, Wang L, Ji H, Zhou M. Risk factors for suicide in China: a national case-control psychological autopsy study. Lancet. 2002 Nov 30;360(9347):1728-36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12480425


August 7, 2020


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