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Suicide rates in young men in England and Wales in the 21st century: time trend study

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 06 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:539
  1. Lucy Biddle, research fellow1,
  2. Anita Brock, senior research officer, mortality statistics2,
  3. Sara T Brookes, senior lecturer in medical statistics1,
  4. David Gunnell, professor of epidemiology1
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR
  2. 2Office for National Statistics, London SW1V 2QQ
  1. Correspondence to: D Gunnell D.J.Gunnell{at}
  • Accepted 11 January 2008


Objectives To explore trends in suicide in young people to investigate the recent observation that after year on year rises in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, rates in young men are now declining.

Design Time trend analysis.

Setting England and Wales, 1968-2005.

Population Men and women aged 15-34 years.

Results Since the 1990s, rates of suicide in young men have declined steadily and by 2005 they were at their lowest level for almost 30 years. This decline is partly because of a reduction in poisoning with car exhaust gas as an increased number of cars have catalytic converters; but there have been declines in suicides from all common methods, including hanging, suggesting a more pervasive effect. Other risk factors for suicide, such as unemployment and divorce, have also decreased. Possible recent reductions in alcohol use among young men and increases in prescribing of antidepressants do not seem to be temporally related to the decline in suicide.

Conclusions Suicide rates in young men have declined markedly in the past 10 years in England and Wales. Reductions in key risk factors for suicide, such as unemployment, might be contributing to lower rates.


  • We thank Peter Stephens, IMS, for antidepressant prescribing data and Ben Wheeler, Department of Social Medicine, for extracting the data.

  • Contributors: LB and DG had the idea for the study and developed the study hypotheses. LB and AB identified relevant data sources and collated the data. LB and STB summarised and plotted the data. LB wrote the first draft of the paper. All authors contributed to revising the paper for intellectual content and approved the final draft. LB and DG are guarantors.

  • Funding: None.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethical approval: Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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