Suicides in the UK – May 2014

Appendix 1:

Suicide definition:

The National Statistics definition of suicide includes deaths given an underlying cause of intentional self-harm or an injury/poisoning of undetermined extent. In England and Wales, it has been customary to assume that most injuries and poisonings of undetermined extent are cases where the harm was self inflicted, but there was insufficient evidence to prove that the deceased deliberately intended to kill themselves (Adelstein and Mardon, 1975). This convention has been adopted across the UK. However, this cannot be applied to children due to the possibility that these deaths were caused by unverifiable accidents, neglect or abuse. Therefore, only persons aged 15 years and over are included in the UK,suicide figures.

Deaths and Rates:

A total of 5,981 deaths of persons aged 15 and over were registered as suicide in the UK,during year 2012, 4,590 male (76.7% of the total) and 1,391 female. The proportion of male deaths was similar for each of the home countries – about three quarters of the total. See Table 1. Suicide is defined as death with an underlying cause of intentional harm.

However, the rates per 100,000 population varied considerably, the overall rate for the UK being 11.6, but ranging from 8.0 (England and Wales) to 18.6 (Scotland). Male rates ranged from 19.5 per 100,000 population (England and Wales) to 28.4 (Scotland), with an overall rate of 18.2 deaths per 100,000. Female deaths ranged from 4.5 (England and Wales) to 9.6 (Scotland), with an overall rate of 5.2 per 100,000 population. Rates per 100,000 population were thus significantly higher for both sexes in Scotland than in England and Wales, with corresponding rates for both sexes in Northern Ireland in between. See Table 2.

Rates per 100,000 population for males in each 5-year age group ranged between 25.9 (age 40-44) and 6.4 (age 15-19). For females, the rates ranged between 8.0 (age 50-54) and 1.9 (age 15-19). The proportion of male suicides of total male and female in each age group exceeded 70% in all age groups, except for those of 80 and over. See Table 3.

Such suicide numbers and rates far outweigh, particularly for males, deaths from road traffic accidents. A total of 1,754 deaths from road accidents were recorded in Great Britain in 2012, approximately three quarters of them male, ie. about 1,315, This compares with 4,375 male suicides in Great Britain, some 3.3 times higher. For female suicides, the proportion was some 3.0 times higher.

Suicide is therefore a bigger killer than road accidents for both sexes. However, there is a glaring disparity between the numbers of males and females involved, with males comprising about three quarters of all deaths from each cause.
Such disparity, provoked the following comments by Stephen Platt, Samaritans’ Trustee and Professor of Health Policy Research at the University of Edinburgh, following the release of the year 2011 suicide figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 23 January 2013.

Suicide deaths and rates for England and Wales:

Suicide deaths and rates follow a similar pattern to those for the United Kingdom. The rates per 100,000 population in 2012 for males ranged from 24.2 for the 40-44 age group to 5.5 for the youngest age group of 15-19. For females, the rates ranged from 7.2 for the 45-49 age group to 1.5 for the 15-19 age group. See Table 4.

Suicide rates by sex and 5-year age group per 100,000 population in England and Wales are shown in Figure 3 and rates for male suicides by age group in Figure 4.

Method of Death:

Overall in the United Kingdom in 2012, suffocation was the most frequent method of death for males (58.3%), and poison and suffocation for females (42.6%) and (36.2%) respectively. See Table 5. Suffocation (41%), by hanging or strangulation, was also the main method in Scotland in 2012, followed closely by poison (37%).

Deaths data supplied by Demography and Methodology Branch is based on the year of registration rather than the year of occurrence, unless otherwise stated. Events such as suicide are likely to be referred to the coroner. This can take some time: therefore deaths recorded each year may have occurred prior to the registration year.

More detailed data by cause of death can be found in the Registrar General Annual Report.

The most recent quarterly statistics relating to suicide can be found in the Registrar General Quarterly Reports..

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