Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death for Women in Nepal

Suicide is now the leading cause of death among women in Nepal age 15-49. Women of childbearing age more likely to die by their own hand than in childbirth. The data comes from a maternal mortality study undertaken by the Nepalese government, and this is not the outcome that anyone expected to find.

The study wasn’t without good news – the maternal mortality rate in Nepal has improved substantially since 1998, from 539 per 100,000 to 229 per 100,000. The suicide numbers, however, were far worse in 2008 than 1998. It was the third single cause of death in 1998, which was worrying, but not as shocking as being number one.

21% of the suicides among women 15-49 were in girls under 18, which suggests youth as a major factor. The study authors also mention “mental health problems, relationships, marriage and family issues” as factors in suicides. Compounding the suicide numbers is the accident data. Accidents were the second most common cause of death after suicides, and we have no way of knowing how many of those accidents were non-reported suicides. As one would expect, the study calls for more attention to women’s suicide and additional research.

I wonder, myself, if women in Nepal are unique, or if this is just the first study to catch a larger issue facing women in the developing world.

If you’re interested in maternal mortality issues, the entire report is well worth reading. It is unusually well written for this kind of report, and it goes deep on the causes and demographics of maternal death in Nepal. Among other interesting data: mortality is more likely among ethnic minorities and women over 35, and causes of maternal death vary hugely across the country.

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