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Suicide statistics in Scotland

This is an overview of suicide rates* in Scotland only. For more information visit The Scottish Public Health Observatory  (external link) and the National Records for Scotland (NRS) (external link) for figures relating to deaths recorded as resulting from intentional self-harm, or deaths from events of undetermined intent**.

Annual changes are based on relatively small numbers, so may not be statistically significant. It is conventional to pool rates over a five-year period, and develop three year rolling averages to account for yearly fluctuations.

Headline Statistics***

  • There were 728 suicides registered in Scotland in 2016, compared to 672 in 2015. These figures are based on the new coding rules introduced by the National Records of Scotland (NRS). The corresponding estimated based on the old coding rules (see note below) are 697 suicides in 2016, up from 656 in 2015
  • As annual numbers tend to fluctuate from year to year, five-year rolling average rates are used for monitoring progress.  Based on these five-year rolling averages, the suicide rate decreased: between 2002 - 06 and 2012 - 16, there has been a downward trend in suicide rates, with an overall decrease of 17%
  • In 2016, the suicide rate for males was more than two - and - a half times that for females
  • In 2012 - 16, the suicide rate was more than two-and-a-half times higher in the most deprived tenth of the population (decile) compared to the least deprived decile (21.3 deaths per 100.000 population compared to 7.6)
  • While suicide rates are strongly related to deprivation level, this difference or inequality has decreased between 2002 - 06 and 2012 - 16
  • The suicide rate varies between different areas within Scotland and fluctuates over time.  However, in 2012-16, no boards were significantly different to the rest of Scotland

Scottish Suicide Information Database Report 2016

The overall purpose of ScotSID is to provide a central repository for information on all probable suicide deaths in Scotland, in order to support epidemiology, policy making and preventive activity.  The databse covers demographic information, contact with health services and related health data and will eventually (through inclusion from other data sources) provide further details relating to the suicide event and the wider social circumstances of the deceased.

This report presents data on deaths due to probable suicides registered with the National Records of Scotland (NRS) during the six - year period 2009 - 2014. 

Rates for Scotland and for England and Wales 1960 - 2008 

This study reveals the widening gap in suicide rates between Scotland, England and Wales. The research carried out by Manchester University, Edinburgh University and the Medical Research Council/Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, examined patterns of suicides north and south of the border between 1960 and 2008. The team found that the suicide rates in both men and women were lower in Scotland until around 1968 when they ovetook England and Wales. Suicides among men continued to rise on both sides of the border until the early 1990s when rates in England and Wales began to fall and the gap between north and south widened markedly.  


* In 2011 the National Records of Scotland (NRS) changed its coding practice to take account of changes made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to coding rules for certain causes of death. As a result there is a difference in how death data were coded for 2011 and 2012 compared to previous years data with some deaths previously coded under mental and behavioural disorders now being classed as 'self -poisoning of undetermined intent' and consequently as suicides. 

**Suicide data normally combines deaths classified as intentional self-harm with those of undetermined intent, as the majority of the latter are probable suicides. This prevents under-recording and provides a more accurate figure for international and geographical comparisons. The term 'suicide' is used to refer to deaths by intentional self-harm and undetermined intent combined.

***Suicide statistics are released annually in August by the National Records for Scotland (NRS). The last update relates to 2016 statistics published on 2 August 2017.

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