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The London Times

Rates are highest among young men

The London Times, UK, by STEWART TENDLER, November 09, 2004

SUICIDES accounted for 13 per cent of the 27,100 inquest verdicts in England and Wales last year, with 2,511 men killing themselves compared with 744 women.

The highest ever suicide numbers occurred around 1931, at the start of the Depression, when rates for the older age groups were higher than those of the youngest groups. However, since the end of the 1950s there has been a marked increase in suicide death rates in people aged 15 to 24 and a sharp decline in those over 44.

Last year's total figures were the second lowest since 1988, and since the 1990s the number has always remained below 4,000. Young men are the most likely to kill themselves, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Young women aged 15-44 had the lowest suicide rate between 1979 and 2001.

Bizarre cases include a builder who constructed his own guillotine, a businessman who killed himself by drilling into his head, and two skydivers (one damaged his parachute and the other jumped without one). Most suicides chose a simpler exit, often hanging themselves or taking an overdose. In 2001 in England and Wales, 44 per cent of male suicides used hanging, strangulation and suffocation; 20 per cent took a drug overdose and another 10 per cent killed themselves using poisons, such as carbon monoxide from vehicle exhausts.

The ONS found that suicide in young men from hanging, strangulation and suffocation had almost doubled between 1979 and 1998. There was also a 50 per cent increase in suicide by those methods among young women during the 1990s, with 46 per cent using drugs and 27 per cent killing themselves by hanging, suffocation or strangulation.

Antidepressants and paracetamol were the two most commonly mentioned substances on all drug-related poisoning suicide death certificates in both 1993 and 2001.