Deaths by suicide at their highest rate in 2021, shows NCRB data

By, New Delhi
Aug 29, 2022 09:11 AM IST

The fastest increase in deaths by suicide was observed among students and small entrepreneurs, much like what was observed in the 2020 edition of the reports

At 120 deaths per million population, the rate of deaths by suicide across India in 2021 soared to the highest level ever recorded, rising 6.1% from the previous year, new data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows, highlighting the toll the pandemic appears to have taken on the emotional well-being of Indians. In contrast, the trend in the rates of crime as well as accidental deaths has started moving towards pre-pandemic levels, data shows.

The fastest increase in deaths by suicide in 2021 was observed among students and small entrepreneurs. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The fastest increase in deaths by suicide in 2021 was observed among students and small entrepreneurs. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The fastest increase in deaths by suicide was observed among students and small entrepreneurs, much like what was observed in the 2020 edition of the reports, supporting anecdotal accounts of prolonged stress induced by the pandemic.

These findings are from Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI) and Crime in India (CII) reports for 2021, both of which were published by NCRB under the Union home ministry and were released on Saturday.

Data shows that a total of 164,033 people died from suicide in 2021, an increase of 7.2% from 2020, when 153,052 people died from suicide, data shows. In 2019, this figure was around 139,000.

At 120 deaths per million population, 2021 also saw the highest rate of deaths from suicide since 1967, the earliest year for which this data is available. The second highest rate of suicide ever reported in the country was in 2010, when it was 113.5 deaths per million population.

The data also shows that those in the lowest income group (people earning less than 1 lakh per annum), who make up around two-thirds of deaths by suicide, registered the biggest increase in deaths by suicide in 2021.

Among professions, people who are self-employed and those who are engaged as daily wagers registered the biggest increase in deaths by suicide, followed by salaried workers and students. To be sure, students had registered a much bigger increase than salaried persons in 2020. The increase in 2021 compared to 2019 is bigger among students than salaried persons. Among farmers of different kinds, deaths by suicide increased only among agricultural labourers, which was also the case in 2020.

Accidents, crimes catch up to pre-2020 numbers

In 2020, crimes had increased sharply, but the numbers were inflated as a large number of people had been booked for violating pandemic-related rules. On the other hand, accidents decreased because there were fewer traffic accidents and deaths by suicide increased sharply, likely a result of lockdowns disrupting daily activity.

The relatively relaxed lockdowns through 2021 had (predictably) a much smaller impact on crimes and accidents. Instances of crimes decreased from 6.6 million in 2020 to 6.1 million in 2021 because lockdowns were less harsh and fewer people were charged with violating them.

Milder lockdowns also caused more traffic accidents and overall accidental deaths increased from 374,000 to 397,000.

Accidental deaths due to forces of nature – such as those from earthquakes, floods, or heat – were fewer in 2021 than in 2020. They decreased from 7,405 in 2020 to 7,126 in 2021. Such deaths were to 8,145 in 2019. Accidental deaths due to other causes – such as traffic accidents – increased. Traffic accidents make up around 40% of all accidental deaths in India. They increased from 146,354 in 2020 to 173,860 in 2021. However, such deaths continued to be lower than in 2019, when 181,113 such deaths took place.

Crimes increasing again?

As explained above, overall crimes decreased in 2021 only because of a decline in pandemic-related offences, which are recorded under three sub-headings: ‘Disobedience to order duly promulgated by Public Servant’ and ‘Other IPC Crimes’ among Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and ‘Other SLL Crimes’ under Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes. Excluding these sub-headings from calculations shows that crimes increased in 2021 compared to both 2019 and 2020.

Crimes unrelated to the pandemic were 4.8 million in 2019, 4.6 million in 2020, and 5 million in 2021. To be sure, IPC crimes continued to be below pre-pandemic level at 2.8 million in 2021 (they were 2.9 million in 2019), although they increased compared to 2020, when 2.6 million such crimes were registered. SLL crimes unrelated to violation of Covid-19 rules, which had increased even in 2020, increased another 8.6% in 2021 to 2.2 million.

Among the most occurring IPC crimes, those related to property (they account for 20%-25% of IPC crimes) registered the biggest increase in 2021 of 18.5%, followed by those affecting the human body (5.1% growth), which account for around a quarter to third of IPC crimes.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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