Background: Suicide in China has declined since the 1990s. However, there has been limited investigation of the potential spatiotemporal variation and social determinants of suicide during subsequent periods.
Method: Annual suicide counts from 2006 to 2012 stratified by county, 5-year age group (>
15 years) and gender were obtained from the Chinese Disease Surveillance Points system. Trends and geographic differentials were examined using multilevel negative binomial regression models to explore spatiotemporal variation in suicide, and the role of key socio-
demographic factors associated with suicide.
Results: The suicide rate (per 100 000) in China decreased from 14.7 to 9.1, 2006–2012. Rates of suicide were higher in males than females and increased substantially with age. Suicide rates were higher in rural areas compared with urban areas; however, urban–rural disparities reduced over time with a faster decline for rural areas. Within both urban and
rural areas, higher rates of suicide were evident in areas with lower socio-economic circumstances (SEC) [rate ratio (RR) 1.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.31–2.62]. Suicide rates varied more than twofold (median RR 2.06) across counties, and were highest in central and southwest regions of China. A high proportion of the divorced population, especially for younger females, was associated with lower suicide rates (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.46
Conclusions: Geographic variations for suicide should be taken into account in policy making, particularly for older males living in rural areas and urban areas with low SEC. Measures to reduce disparities in socio-economic level and alleviate family relation stress are current priorities.