Suicide rates among older women, kids ‘worrying’

A University of Hong Kong researcher has expressed concern about the increasing trend of elderly women and those under 15 taking their own lives, even as the city’s overall suicide rate dropped to its lowest in more than 20 years.

Professor Paul Yip, who heads the university’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, said on Friday an estimated 12.1 people committed suicide for every 100,000 people last year, down from 13.1 in 2019.

But he described an increase of almost 30 percent in the suicide rate among elderly women – to 15 for every 100,000 people – as worrying.

Yip said it may have to do with women’s longer life expectancy, which means they outlive their husbands.

He said emigration could also be a factor, citing reports that some young families are moving out of Hong Kong and leaving their parents behind.

“It can cause some stress or anxiety among these older adults. They might have a feeling of being abandoned [by their families],” he said.

Yip warned that the situation would worsen if the government and families of the elderly do not pay more attention to their well-being.

The scholar also noted an increasing trend of youngsters aged under 15 committing suicide. The rate stood at 1.3 in 2020, up from 0.7 the year before.

He said while academic pressure played a role, the suspension of face-to-face classes due to Covid-19 didn’t help either.

Yip said schools provide a sort of shelter for students, especially those from low-income families, and they should not be completely closed even if the pandemic worsens.