Arranged and early marriage are thought to be behind high suicide rates among women in India, researchers have found.
A study in the Lancet medical journal found that 37 per cent of global suicide deaths among women and 24 per cent among men occurred in India.
In 2016 around 230,000 people killed themselves in India, with 135,000 of those deaths occuring in men and 95,000 in women.
The report found that married women account for the highest proportion of suicide deaths in India, across lines of religion, geography, social class and age.
The report stated: “Marriage is known to be less protective against suicide for women because of arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence.”
Dr Era Dutta of the executive committee of the Indian Psychiatric Society, said: “How women cope with stress is different to how men cope with stress, which is why you have this odd situation where more women attempt suicide but more men actually go through with it.”
The report warned that a dangerous level of ignorance and stigmatisation, family pressures, career and financial worries as well as the increasing influence of social media were putting a whole generation of Indians at risk.
Nearly three quarters – 71 per cent – of suicide deaths among women in India were in the 15 to 39 age group over the period studied in the report, 1990 to 2016.
The study added: “Young adults are taking their own lives in alarmingly high numbers, constituting a public health crisis.”
“Lack of access to mental health facilities for women could be a factor behind suicide related deaths,” said Rakhi Dandona, of the Public Health Foundation of India, and one of the study’s authors.
The report said that more men than women are actually going through with suicide, a trend that holds true globally. For instance, in 2014, 76 per cent suicides in the UK were by men. However, Indian women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men.
Dr Dutta runs workshops on suicide prevention among young people, and says that while women across India face all kinds of societal struggles, for young women it’s often on the home front.
“Many are desperate to fit in”, she says. “And if they don’t or more importantly feel they don’t, they have no one they can trust to turn to, and social media just amplifies that feeling of isolation.”