Conventional suicide trends mask increasing rates in young men
Press release issued: 19 September 2003
Conventional methods for assessing trends in suicide rates mask an important increase in suicide rates among younger men, states a letter appearing in this week's issue of The Lancet from two scientists at Bristol University.
Conventional methods for assessing trends in suicide rates mask an important increase in suicide rates among younger men, states a letter appearing in this week’s issue of The Lancet from two scientists at Bristol University.
The conventional method for measuring population suicide trends involves analysis of suicides across all age-ranges, combining male and female suicides. Professor David Gunnell and Nicos Middleton from the University of Bristol propose that suicide assessment which focuses on the age of the individual or ‘potential years of life lost’ (PYLL) provides a different perspective of suicide trends.
They report how analysis of routine mortality and census data for England and Wales shows that although age-standardised suicide rates fell by 18% between 1981 and 1998, the PYLL before age 65 years increased by 5%. Gunnell and Middleton have shown that this is due to an increase in suicides in young men.
Professor Gunnell comments: “In England and Wales, favourable trends in overall suicide rates have masked an increase in suicide rates in young men. This masking has occurred because the standardised suicide rate is created by pooling different age-specific and sex-specific rates into a single figure, thereby ignoring the differing trends within specific population groups. This finding suggests that nations with similar patterns of suicide to those seen in England and Wales, such as Australia and the USA, might also have reductions in overall suicide rates yet deteriorating rates in young people. Such deteriorations are especially important if they signify a decline in young people’s mental health.”