Registered suicide rate returns to pre-pandemic level after inquest disruption

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The ONS said the increase reflects the resumption of coroners’ inquests (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
The ONS said the increase reflects the resumption of coroners’ inquests (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

The rate of registered suicides in England has returned to pre-pandemic level following disruption to coroners’ inquests, provisional figures suggest.

There were 10.4 registered suicides per 100,000 people in the first half of 2021, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The suicide rate in the second quarter of 2021 was statistically significantly higher than the rate in the second quarter of 2020, when there were 7.0 registered suicides per 100,000.

The ONS said the increase reflects the resumption of coroners’ inquests, following disruption during the coronavirus crisis, rather than a genuine increase in suicides.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

There were 15.4 male suicides per 100,000 in the first quarter of the year, and 15.5 male suicides in the second quarter – similar to pre-pandemic rates.

And among females there were 5.7 and 5.5 suicides per 100,000 in quarters one and two respectively, again similar to rates in these quarters before the pandemic.

All deaths by suicide are investigated by coroners, with deaths usually registered about five to six months after they take place, due to the length of time it takes to hold an inquest.

Of the 2,561 suicides registered between January and June 2021, fewer than one in five (17.6%) occurred that year.

Separate figures published by the ONS on Tuesday also show that there were 5,224 suicides registered in England and Wales last year – down 8.2% from 2019.

It equates to a rate of 10.0 deaths per 100,000 people – statistically significantly lower than the 2019 rate of 11.0 deaths per 100,000.

Three-quarters of registered suicide deaths last year were of men (3,925 deaths).

The fall is likely to be down to two factors, the ONS said – a decrease in male suicides at the start of the pandemic, and delays in death registrations.

Figures published last week by the ONS, showing suicides by date of occurrence, suggest that the number of suicides did not rise during the first wave of the pandemic.

Suicide rates were found to be lower between April and July 2020 when compared with the same period in previous years.

Jacqui Morrissey, assistant director of research and influencing at Samaritans said: “Whilst on the surface it may seem reassuring that the pandemic has not increased overall suicide rates, the picture is not straightforward due to the delays in reporting caused by Covid-related disruption and we must not become complacent.

“Any life lost to suicide is a tragedy and we know that the after-effects of the extraordinary last 18 months will continue to impact people’s lives in the years to come.

“The Government must factor the strong connection between economic deprivation and suicide into its plans for our economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Funding should be made available in the forthcoming spending review for targeted investment in local areas to further develop and deliver practical support services to prevent suicide among groups at the highest risk, particularly middle-aged men.”

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans free on 116 123 (UK and the Republic of Ireland) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS help for suicidal thoughts webpage.

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