At least 54 Chinese officials have died of “unnatural deaths” since January 2013, according to a report by the China Youth Daily published on Friday.
A breakdown of the causes revealed that 23 of the 54 deceased officials, or 42.6 per cent, were reported to have committed suicide. Drinking and accidents each contributed to nine deaths.
Among the 23 officials who committed suicide, “depression” ranked among the top health issues they had been suffering in the time leading up to their deaths, according to the report.
Several high-profile officials have killed themselves in recent months, according to Chinese media reports.
Xu Yean, 58, a senior official with the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, which handles petitions, was found dead in his Beijing office on Tuesday morning. He was the third high-ranking official to take his own life in the past few months.
Xu had experienced chronic health problems, suffering from tinnitus - a debilitating auditory condition, and had appeared depressed in recent months, according to business magazine Caixin.
Last week, Zhou Yu, a senior police official in Chongqing once hailed as a hero in disgraced leader Bo Xilai's crackdown on organised crime, was found dead in a hotel room. He hanged himself after suffering from depression and poor health, according to the Chongqing Morning Post.
The highest-ranking official to have taken his own life since 2013 is Bai Zhongren, the former president of China Railway Group, a state-owned engineering giant behind many of the country's largest railway projects. He jumped to his death in January.
About 287,000, or 23 per 100,000, people in China killed themselves each year in the period between 1995 and 1999, according to a study published by the Lancet, an authoritative UK based medical journal. Suicide accounted for 3.6 per cent of all deaths in China and was the fifth most important cause of death, it found.
In 2013 a report  by China's state Xinhua news agency estimated that 300,000 in China committed suicide each year.