This study reports on a scoping review of the published and unpublished
literature on suicide incidence rates, that is, the rate of suicide
deaths per one hundred thousand population, and other metrics related to
suicide deaths in six South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan,
India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal). It includes 114 reports and peer
reviewed publications (n=64 and n=50, respectively), collected through
searches by in-country consultants and systematic searches of scientific
There is a paucity of data on suicide incidence rates in South Asia,
especially data that is both national level and of high quality.
There is an urgent need to establish comprehensive national suicide
data collection systems in the South Asian countries where they
currently do not exist, evaluate the accuracy of the national suicide
data collection systems in countries that currently have them (India
and Sri Lanka).
Best practice for establishing suicide rates identified in this review
are studies that combine several data sources including data from
large representative samples (i.e. national health/ mortality
surveillance system or community survey) and systematic verbal
Overall, reported rates tend to be alarmingly high across countries,
except the few official national rates that are available, which
generally report lower rates. Most authors interpret the official
national rates to be significantly underreported, an assessment that
is supported by available comparison data.
Overall, suicide rates are higher among men than among women in all
but one country, Bangladesh. Younger women of reproductive age appear
to be at higher risk than men in the other South Asian countries where
information is available.
Reported rates vary vastly between publications, which can be
explained by differences in study population and/or quality of data
collection. Higher quality studies consistently report higher rates
compared to lower quality studies. Sub-population studies report
higher rates than national level data, with official rates being the
lowest reported rates. Official rates tend to be higher for countries
that have better national mortality surveillance systems.
HealthNet TPO. Suicide in South Asia: a scoping review of published and unpublished literature. Final Report. HealthNet TPO, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2013) v + 123 pp.