Alarming Elderly Suicides in Rural China
A recent sociological study on elderly suicides in China found
rates are too phenomenal to ignore.
The report showed causes are mainly due to tough life, sickness,
and lack of family care.
Analysts believe this is a bitter consequence of the rural
household registration system under the Communist regime.
The first bluebook on causes of ageing:
‘China Report on the Development of Ageing 2014’ was
released on Sept. 23.
This report was conducted by China Research Center on Ageing.
It suggested that by 2050, there will be 480 million elderly
Chinese, accounting for a quarter of the world’s elderly population.
Also, a sociological study on suicides among older people
in rural China also found that suicide rates
have reached an alarming level.
For example, up to 28% of the population in Rudong County,
Jiangsu Province, are elderly.
The majority of those who are in their 60s or 70s are still
doing odd jobs and house chores.
They long for the company of their children and grandchildren.
But many of them are admitted to nursing homes where they
are kept alive, but with no family, friends or any emotional exchange.
Wuhan human rights activist Qin Yongmin indicates that
in the rural areas, it is not just the serious elderly suicide issue
but also many deeper problems hard to resolve.
Qin Yongmin: “For many years, these people of 70 to 80 are
still carrying out a variety of hard physical jobs just to survive.
Some of them even wander into town to be waste pickers
or produce sellers. Some even become beggars to survive.
For several decades, this country has had a very harsh policy
towards the rural areas, agriculture and peasants.
The policy was pro-government benefit and pro-official benefit."
The Communist rural registration system had initially tightly
bound rural people to the farms.
They had to stay as peasant laborers in the countryside.
Qin Yongmin says that after the reform and opening up,
the land was initially worthless, so the regime had ignored
a large number of rural land issues.
Qin Yongmin: “Now the land appreciates, they come back
to take the land away from the farmers.
The authorities use the land to maintain the local finances.
Meanwhile, the family structure has undergone great changes
in the rural areas.
In general, the younger generations no longer rely on
agricultural activities for their livelihoods and many of them
fled to the city."
Former Shaanxi TV reporter Ma Xiaoming explains that after
the land was usurped, many farmers encountered problems
of survival. The young people have to work in cities,
leaving only the old and sick ones in the countryside.
Ma Xiaoming: “The young ones are gone and only return home
during harvest time, or the New Year and or even only
once every several years.
The elderly could not get proper care and medical attention.
That’s why the suicide rates are getting serious."
The sociological study of rural elderly suicide was
conducted by Liu Yanwu, lecturer at the Department of Sociology,
For 6 years, the survey investigated elderly suicides
in 11 provinces and more than 40 villages.
It found that since 1990, China’s rural elderly suicide rate has
increased significantly, and remained high.
In 2008, Liu Yanwu’s research team found elderly suicides
in Jingshan County, Hubei Province, were regarded as
reasonably normal in the locality. Among the elderly deaths,
the suicide rate was as high as 30%.
Qin Yongmin: “It involves problems of both the family
and wider social issues.
From the social perspective, the national policy for rural areas,
farmers and agriculture has always been to get but not to give.
The empty nest syndrome has kept the elderly alone.
As a group with no future and a very difficult status quo,
they choose to commit suicide."
Qin Yongmin indicates that under the current Communist regime,
it is very difficult to solve the problem of suicide among
the elderly in rural areas.
Even if the pension and medical problems are resolved,
it can not solve the hardships young people are experiencing
even if they work hard locally.
They still have to go out to work as migrants.
Interview & Edit/LiYun Post-Production/Li Zhiyuan