Demographic risk factors in pesticide related suicides in Sri Lanka

Suicide rates in Sri Lanka (40 per 100 000) greatly exceed those of the United Kingdom (7.4/100 000), United States (12/100 000), and Germany (15.8/100 000).1,2 A leading method of committing suicide in Sri Lanka is ingestion of pesticides, which are readily available in rural farming households. Self poisoning kills more people in rural Sri Lanka than ischemic heart disease and tropical diseases combined.3 Although acute pesticide poisoning occurs at alarmingly high rates in Sri Lanka, it is also a major problem throughout the developing world. The worldwide incidence is three million cases and 220 000 deaths each year.4

Suicide attempts tend to be fatal, especially in the rural areas where rescue facilities are seldom available.4 Further reasons for high mortality rates include the toxic nature of the substances involved, lack of antidotes, distances between hospitals and patients, and overburdened medical staff.4

This study analyzed raw data on pesticide related deaths in search of demographic risk factors contributing to these suicides in Sri Lanka during 2002.

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