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Trends

In 2020 there were 5,224 deaths registered in England and Wales where the cause was recorded as suicide. Relative to the size of the population, the suicide rate in England and Wales has declined by around 31% since 1981. However, most of this fall occurred before 2000. In 2018 and 2019 there was a statistically significant rise in the rate, but in 2020 the rate fell.

Line chart showing the age-standardised suicide rate in England and Wales between 1981 and 2020

Source: ONS, Suicides in England and Wales 2020

Gender and age

Suicide in England and Wales is three times more common among men than among women. The gap between genders has increased over time. The suicide rate among women has approximately halved since 1981. By comparison, the rate among men has reduced by 20%.

Line chart showing trends in the suicide in England and Wales broken down by gender

Suicide in England and Wales is most common among people aged between 45 and 54. The chart below shows the 2018-2020 average for five-year age groups from age 15 upwards, also broken down by gender.

Bar chart showing the suicide rate broken down by age group and gender in England and Wales (2018-2020)

Deprivation

People living in the most deprived areas of England have a higher risk of suicide than those living in the least deprived areas. The suicide rate in the most deprived 10% of areas (‘decile’) in 2017-2019 was 14.1 per 100,000, which is almost double the rate of 7.4 in the least deprived decile.

Suicide during the pandemic

Most data on suicide is presented by the year that the death was registered. Because of the length of time it takes to complete a coroner’s inquest, it can take months or sometimes years for a suicide to be registered. This means that the number of suicides registered in a year is not the same as the number occurring in that year.

In particular, this means that you cannot use figures for suicides registered in 2020 to make any claims about the pandemic. See the last section of this briefing for information on suicides occurring during the early stages of the pandemic.

However, in September 2021 ONS released analysis of the number of suicides that occurred in England and Wales between April and July 2020 – roughly corresponding with the first national lockdown.

The data shows that the suicide rate was lower in Apr-Jul 2020 than in recent years. The rate per was 9.2 per 100,000 population – down from 11.3 in the same period of 2019. This was mainly driven by a fall in male suicides, with female suicides showing no statistically significant change on previous years.

ONS say that the difference between 2020 and previous years was largest in April.

Getting help

If you are affected by the themes of this briefing paper, you can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (UK) 1850 60 90 90 (ROI) or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch.

If you are covering a suicide-related issue, please consider following the Samaritans’ media guidelines on the reporting of suicide, due to the potentially damaging consequences of irresponsible reporting.


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