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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Suicide in Hong Kong, 1981-1991 : a social and spatial analysis Lee, David J.

Abstract

This thesis is a social and spatial study of suicide in Hong Kong's three subregions: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories for the period 1981-1991. The primary data used are official suicide statistics; these are supplemented by descriptive newspaper accounts of suicide. Over time, the suicide rate for Hong Kong as a whole, as well as for each of these subregions, increased during this period. Over space, the rate was highest for Kowloon, a core urban area with the highest degree of social disorganization. The New Territories, a recently urbanized subregion, had the lowest but increasing rate. Moreover, it has been found that the suicide rates for all subregions increased lineally with age. It is hypothesized that the relatively high suicide rate for the older population is related to the inequitable social-wealth redistribution stemming from Hong Kong's laissez-faire economic policy, in particular, inadequate social services, inefficient public-sector medical services, and formal and informal suicide-intervention opportunities. It is also observed that Hong Kong's media provide most of its suicide coverage to the age group with the lowest suicide rate—school age people, while coverage given to elderly suicides is relatively rare and usually brief; this perpetuates public ignorance of elderly suicide as a problematic social issue. Increased equity in social-wealth redistribution and increased public awareness of depression and suicide are proposed as means of reducing suicide in Hong Kong.

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