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module menu icon Epidemiology

In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK and three-quarters of these were men. The rate of suicide among men in 2019 was the highest for 20 years, while the rate among women has been consistent over the past 10 years. 

Suicide rates are highest among the middle-aged, peaking at 45-49 years for men and 50-54 years for women, then decreasing until the age of 80-84, at which point they begin to rise. A person who is unemployed is two to three times more at risk of suicide than someone who is in work. Someone who is abusing alcohol has eight times the risk of those who are not. Among men, those who are divorced are at greatest risk.

Despite having a low number of deaths overall, rates among the under 25s have generally increased in recent years, particularly among 10- to 24-year-old females. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people. 

A quarter of those who die by suicide have a co-morbid physical health problem – a figure that rises to 44 per cent in patients aged 65 and over. Depression is linked to increased suicide risk among physically ill people, particularly in certain diagnoses such as coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer. Good physical healthcare may help to reduce suicide risk. 

Of people who died by suicide and had presented to their GP, almost three-quarters had a diagnosis of depression. Rates of suicide are higher in areas of socio-economic deprivation.

Social, psychological and cultural factors can all interact to lead a person to suicidal thoughts or behaviour. For many people, an attempt may occur after a long period of suicidal thoughts or feelings, or it may be more impulsive.