Review of Suicide Statistics in Northern Ireland

Date published: 26 May 2022

Findings from the review of suicide statistics in Northern Ireland were published today at 9.30 am along with revised data.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and Coroner’s Service for Northern Ireland (CSNI) began a review into suicide deaths in 2020 following a notable fall in suicide numbers among registrations in 2019 (reported in June 2020) which had been subject to increased quality checks of source data compared with previous years. 

This report presents the background and findings to the review of NI Suicide Statistics, an exercise which was undertaken by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and the Coroners Service for NI (CSNI) following the identification of a classification issue in published statistics for the period 2015-2020. It describes the issues, quantifies the impact of the revision of the previously published time series and outlines next steps.

Currently cases between 2015 and 2017 are not yet finalised due to some non drug-related cases still to be reviewed; these will be finalised and released later in 2022.

In total, 467 cases have been part of this work.

Key Points

  • 84 per cent of all cases reviewed (2015 to 2020), out of 467 in total, moved from undetermined cause of death into accidental cause of death categories which fall outside the suicide definition, thus reducing the number of suicide deaths in NI between 2015 and 2020.
  • The annual average reduction in suicides over the 3 year period 2015-2017 is almost 30 per cent compared with previously published figures.  The later years of the review saw lower reductions in numbers; a 23 per cent fall in 2018 and a 17 per cent fall in 2020.
  • Prior to the review it was believed that NI had the highest age-standardised rate in the UK (18-19 suicides per 100,000 population, next to Scotland at 13-16 per 100,000). The revised figures show that NI had a lower suicide rate than Scotland in the last few years.  For the latest year, 2020, NI had an age-standardised rate of 13.3 suicides per 100,000 population compared to Scotland at 15.0. The rate for England & Wales is lower at 10.0 suicides per 100,000 in 2020. It should be noted, however, that cross country comparisons will build in differences in different data collection and collation processes in the separate jurisdictions.
  • Revised figures show that there were 219 suicides registered in NI in 2020. This is higher (by 14, 7 per cent) than 2019, and lower (by 17, 7 per cent) than the 2018 figure.
  • The age-standardised suicide rate in NI increased from 12.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 in 2020 (19.6 and 7.1 deaths per 100,000 population for males and females respectively).
  • The Belfast Trust had the highest suicide rate at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2020, followed by Southern Trust (14.2 deaths per 100,000). Northern Trust had the lowest suicide rate in 2020 at 9.4 deaths per 100,000.
  • Northern Ireland’s most deprived areas had a suicide rate that was almost twice that of the least deprived areas in 2020 (19.7 deaths per 100,000 in the most deprived areas, 10.8 per 100,000 in the least deprived).

The full findings and revised data series can be found on the suicide deaths webpage.

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