The ONS yesterday published the latest suicide statistics, now including 2017, downloadable here. Between 4,000 and 5,000 men have committed suicide in the UK every year for the past 37 years, the period covered by the report.
That’s a total of 164,510 men.
A piece by Greg Hurst, Social Affairs Editor, in today’s Times:
The rate of male suicide has fallen to its lowest since records began, with experts saying that a greater focus on men’s mental health was encouraging them to seek help.
There were 4,382 suicides by men last year, a rate of 15.5 deaths per 100,000, a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
This was down from 16 per 100,000 last year and the lowest since the ONS began recording the rate in 1981.
Among women the rate was 4.9 per 100,000, broadly consistent with the pattern over the past decade.
Among the prominent mental health campaigns in recent years is Heads Together, led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
Launched in April last year, it brought together mental health charities and celebrities including the former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff and Tony Blair’s former director of communications Alastair Campbell — both of whom have experienced depression — to try to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and urge people to seek help.
Prince Harry gave an interview in which he described finally seeking counselling to deal with the “chaos” he had felt for 20 years after the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
There has long been a much higher rate of suicide among men than women, accounting for about three quarters of such deaths. The highest prevalence of suicide is among men aged 45 to 49. It is also high among men aged 80 and older as their health declines. Among women, those aged 50 to 54 have the highest rate of suicide.
There were 5,821 suicides registered in the UK last year, equivalent to 10.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans, said: “It’s encouraging to see the reduction in male suicide. We believe that the focus of suicide prevention in recent years to tackle the higher rates in men has contributed. Added to this, reducing stigma around men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up and ask for help when they are struggling has been beneficial. But one death by suicide is still one too many.
“Suicide is complex and it’s a problem of inequality. It affects the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society, male and female, disproportionately. This is an urgent public health issue, not simply a health or mental health one.”
Over the past 35 years the suicide rate for men peaked at 21.4 deaths per 100,000 in 1988 but has been on a broadly downward trajectory since. There was a smaller peak in 2013, after it rose for three years to reach 17.8 per 100,000.
The figures are likely [J4MB: “certain” would be a more accurate word] to underestimate the total as some coroners are reluctant to record a verdict of suicide to spare relatives additional grief unless there is compelling evidence. [J4MB emphasis. Another source of underestimation is risky behaviour by men in particular, which men know may shorten their lives e.g. excessive alcohol consumption over many years.]
A separate ONS analysis last year showed that, while suicide was the leading cause of death in England in adults [J4MB: “men” would be accurate] below the age of 50, there were big variations by occupation.
High-paid groups including managers, directors and senior officials had the lowest risk. Men in low-skilled jobs had a 44 per cent higher risk than average. Among plasterers and painters and decorators the risk was twice as high and among construction workers it was three times higher.
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