Making Sense of a Senseless Act

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Science  23 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6110, pp. 1025-1027
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6110.1025

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China accounts for an estimated 22% of global suicides, or roughly 200,000 deaths every year. In India, twice as many people took their own lives in 2010 as died from HIV/AIDS. By comparison, the World Health Organization estimates that suicides in high-income countries total only 140,000 a year. Suicide rates in Japan and South Korea, however, are similar to China's (see sidebar), suggesting that this is a regional public health issue. And yet suicide in Asia is poorly understood. Emerging research is now filling that gap—and overturning prevailing notions. While mental illness remains an important correlate in Asia, researchers may learn more from a victim's family, religion, education, and personality. New findings suggest that some researchers may have misread correlation as causation.

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