Suicide rate for men in England and Wales the highest for two decades, ONS figures suggest

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that the suicide rate for men in England and Wales in 2019 was the highest for two decades. The statistics show that there were 5,691 suicides registered in 2019, with men accounting for about three-quarters of deaths (4,303, compared with 1,388 women).

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland commented: “Men aged 45-49 remain at the highest risk of suicide in 2019 – a worrying trend that has persisted for decades. We are also seeing a continued increase in suicide rates among young people, especially females under 25, where the rate has increased since 2012 to its highest level in 2019. 2019 has also shown a disturbing increase in rates among people aged 25 to 44 – a trend which has continued since 2017 for men and 2016 for women. With the impact of the pandemic this year taking a huge toll on people’s mental wellbeing, we should be even more concerned.”

“Today’s figures provide important information about suicide in 2019 and part of 2020 for England. But, it’s important that we don’t attribute this rise to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly as the data reflects when a death is registered following an inquest, so many of the suicides in the 2020 data will have actually occurred in 2019, before the pandemic began. We must therefore use this data responsibly and remember we don’t yet have a clear picture of what has happened this year, because of the persistent problem of reporting delays for suicides. This shows why we urgently need a comprehensive national real time surveillance system to be able to monitor and respond to any increases in suicide rates in a timely manner, before it’s too late, to save lives.

“It is not inevitable that suicide rates will go up as a result of coronavirus, but we know that the pandemic is impacting on lots of people’s lives and exacerbating some known risk factors for suicide for some people who are already vulnerable. From our own research which looked to understand how coronavirus is affecting people who access our services, we know that callers are generally more anxious and distressed than before the pandemic. Volunteers are telling us that many callers have been worried about losing their job and/or business and their finances, with common themes around not being able pay rent/mortgage, inability to support the family, and fear of homelessness.

“Undoubtedly, the pandemic has affected everyone in society, but Samaritans is particularly worried about three groups: people with pre-existing mental health conditions, young people who self-harm, and less well-off middle-aged men. It is essential that these groups are given the support they need before people reach crisis point. Suicide prevention must be a priority right now, so we can save lives.”