September 29, 2010

CHINA: Rise in China's elderly suicides

SINGAPORE / The Straits Times / Asia / September 29, 2010

They face relocations and high medical bills

BEIJING - The suicide rate among the elderly living in China's urban areas has become alarmingly high as they face rising medical bills and relocations from their homes, experts have warned.

An elderly woman and her caregiver walking down a tree-lined lane in Changchun in north-eastern China. Half of all elderly people in urban areas live alone.  Photo: Associated Press

The annual suicide rate among those aged 70 to 74 in cities surged above 33 per 100,000 people between 2002 and 2008 compared to 13 per 100,000 people in the 1990s, sociology professor Jing Jun from Beijing's Tsinghua University said.

But that is still a far cry from the suicide rate among the elderly in rural areas, which, according to Mr Fei Lipeng of the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Centre, is five times higher.

However, as urbanisation speeds up in China, the rise in urban suicides has become a growing concern among experts.

A trend of relocating people from old sections of cities due to be demolished to make way for modern buildings had contributed to the increased rate, the Global Times reported Prof Jing as saying.

'Relocation could be a bane to senior citizens in many ways, like throwing them into unfamiliar communities, lengthening the distance from their family and raising disputes on property rights,' he said at a seminar in Peking University recently.

Copyright © 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.

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