Beijing: Suicides among China's elderly in rural areas is on the rise at an alarming rate as many of them are tempted to end their lives after being neglected by their children and the society, a new report said today.
A sociological study on suicides among older people in rural China suggests the phenomenon is so bad that it can no longer be neglected, it said.
Liu Yanwu, a Wuhan University lecturer who was in charge of the six-year study since its start in 2008, said the suicide rate among the elderly people in rural areas has jumped from 100 per lakh to 500 in two decades.
Suicide might be a way for them to ease the pain of a rapidly urbanising CHina, Liu was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.
He cited lack of proper care from children as a motivation for suicide among elders. Liu said making sure the elderly are well cared for is very important in Chinese tradition, but the pressure of an urban life leaves city dwellers no time for their parents.
Liu believes that despair is behind the suicides, and if they can find a way out, they won't kill themselves.
According to Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, people aged 60 and above accounted for 14.9 per cent of China's total population by the end of 2013, higher than the UN's 10 per cent threshold for an "ageing country".
Statistics show the number of disabled elders in China has increased by 1.5 million from 2012 to 2013.
The Chinese government estimates the ageing population will reach its peak in 20 years.
Xiao Shuiyuan, a professor at Central South University, said the suicide rate among senior citizens is triple the rate in other groups.
Liang Kangmao, 74, a villager from south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region said that some elderly people kill themselves because of economic pressure. He said he and his wife do the math before going to hospital to get cure for any disease.
"Our annual income from farming is 3,000 yuan. If we spend 30,000 yuan to treat the disease and Cai can live for 10 years, it's a good deal. If she turns out to survive only a few years, it is not worthwhile," said Liang.
A survey by Huazhong University of Science and Technology earlier this year showed that 51.7 per cent of elderly Chinese regard watching TV as their main source of entertainment.
The lack of care facilities for elders in China's rural areas is only making things worse.
When left-behind rural elderly are unable to take care of themselves and nursing homes are not available, it is natural for them to feel desperate, said Gu Hui, a researcher with the Anhui Academy of Social Sciences.
The government is attempting to encourage institutions to provide more care to the rural elderly to tackle the problem, the report said.