Suicide rates in the United Kingdom jumped nearly 12 percent in 2018, the first rise since 2013 with a significant increase among men.
A total of 6,507 suicides were registered in the UK last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, up from 5,821 in 2017 – an increase of 11.8 percent.
Three-quarters of the suicides (4,903) in 2018 were men, at a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000.
The ONS said this represented a “significant increase from the rate in 2017” when 4,382 male suicides were recorded.
The “exact reasons” for the rise were unknown but changes made in the past year to the way coroners record such deaths may be a factor, it added.
In July 2018 the standard of proof used by coroners to determine whether a death was a suicide was lowered.
Samaritans Chief Executive Ruth Sutherland said: “It is extremely worrying that, for the first time in five years, the suicide rate in the UK has increased with 686 more deaths than in 2017.
“There has also been a significant increase in the suicide rate in young men since 2017. Significantly, more men aged 45-49 took their own lives also, and middle-aged men remain the group at greatest risk of suicide overall.”
The figures show the highest rate of suicide by age in 2018 was among 45 to 49-year-olds, a rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 males.
“Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities,” said Sutherland. “Whilst the overall rise has only been seen this year – and we hope it is not the start of a longer-term trend – it’s crucial to have a better understanding of why there has been such an increase.
“We know that suicide is not inevitable; it is preventable and encouraging steps have been made to prevent suicide, but we need to look at suicide as a serious public health issue.”
The Samaritans also said the rising rate of suicide in young people was a “particular concern”.
Suicides among women has remained broadly the same over the last decade but rates among under 25s increased – particularly among 10 to 24-year-old females – since 2012. The rate among this age group is at its highest level since current records began with 3.3 deaths per 100,000 females in 2018.
We urgently need a new government strategy which looks at the factors that are fuelling the crisis in young people's mental health
Sutherland added: “Whilst suicide is complex and rarely caused by one thing, there are some common factors in young people who take their own lives.
“These include bereavement, mental or physical ill-health, self-harm and academic pressure. We must understand what is contributing to the recent rise in suicides, and try to ensure this generation doesn’t carry a higher risk of suicide throughout their lives.
The charity YoungMinds said: “We urgently need a new government strategy which looks at the factors that are fuelling the crisis in young people’s mental health and which ensures that anyone who’s struggling to cope can get early support.
“We’re seeing some much-needed investment in NHS mental health services – but we need much more action to ensure young people can get early help, long before they reach crisis point.”
The figures cover all deaths from intentional self-harm for people over the age of 10 and deaths where the intent was undetermined for those aged over 15.
Nick Stripe, from the ONS, said: “We saw a significant increase in the rate of deaths registered as suicide last year, which has changed a trend of continuous decline since 2013.”