Study: Suicide biggest killer of young women in India
Suicide is the biggest killer of women between 15-49 years of age in India. Maternal disorders related to child birth, which earlier used to top the killer list, have been pushed to the third place, going by the absolute number of deaths. The second biggest cause of death is injuries from fire or hot substances, which raises the spectre of bride burning for dowry and all those incidents of stove bursts said to be caused by the use of substandard stoves.
These sobering facts were revealed in the recently released Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2010 Study (GBD 2010), a collaborative project led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
"Besides death, the burden of disease also includes the disability caused by a disease or condition. That is why the condition with the second highest burden of disease among 15-49 year old women is iron-deficiency anaemia. Though the number of deaths it causes directly is low, the condition has significant adverse health consequences for women. That is also why major depression is third on the list. Again, it does not kill directly but it causes significant disability," explains Dr Lalit Dandona, research professor, Public Health Foundation of India and professor of global health at IHME.
According to Dr Nimesh Desai, medical superintendent of the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in Delhi, a lot of cases of suicide go unreported. "Suicides could be linked to untreated depression and sometimes it is unrelated and could be due to interpersonal issues. But we do need greater awareness about depression so that people will come forward to get it treated like any other disease. Gender bias in health-seeking is one of the reasons why women are not brought in for treatment of depression. There is also the stigma attached to seeking treatment," said Dr Desai. He added that one could argue about the ranking of suicide as one of the top killers, but there is no doubting the fact that it is among the top three killers in the country.
"If only mortality were considered, conditions that cause significant disability would be missed and thus not addressed during policy making," pointed out Dr Dandona.
Chronic obstructive lung disease also causes both deaths and disability among women. This is mostly related to pollution, especially indoor pollution from use of solid fuels like firewood and cowdung cakes. This is due to the lack of access to less harmful fuels like LPG, mostly unavailable to women in the lower socioeconomic strata.
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