Global trends for male-to-female suicides rates tend to show a ratio of 3:1. However, some countries of the South Pacific demonstrate a more equal ratio or even higher trends for females, particularly those of Indian descent living in Fiji.
What factors contribute to women being equally or more likely than men to commit or attempt suicide in Fiji? Why are Indo-Fijian women particularly at risk?
A study in 1992 suggested that 41% of female suicides were a result of poor marital conditions or abuse. Booth (1999) suggests decreases in traditional female sources of power, changing marital trends, and increased rates of seeking paid employment outside the home and education may contribute to the increase in suicide rates.
Booth (1999) also noted that protective factors such a parenthood and marriage do not have the same effect amongst young Indo-Fijian females. She suggests this could be due to incidence of arranged marriages occurring outside their ancestral home. This idea is supported by a study of female Indian migrants in the United Kingdom by Merrill and Owens (1986).
In 2000, and 2006 Fiji underwent massive social change. Coups, military rule, and continual tensions between the Indian and Indigenous populations present a constant source of unease and stress. Locals and scholars point to the continual political upheaval as the cause for increases in suicide and other social problems.
A study conducted in 2007 found a significant association between social stress and both ethnicity and religion (Indian and Hindu). The researchers found no significant associations between any other variable, including gender. This is curious when one considers the female Indian population of Fiji has much higher rates of suicide when compared to women worldwide. If Indian women do commit suicide more often then Indian men, then there may be another variable that has not been considered or included in this particular study.
A confounding variable and explanation for this trend could be the underreporting of Indo-Fijian males who commit suicide.