Scotland's high rate of suicides set to get worse – researchers
SCOTLAND'S disproportionately high suicide rate is destined to rise further, because younger people retain their high risk as they age, researchers fear.
The first study into why the rate at which Scots kill themselves is far higher than across the UK was announced yesterday as new figures showed the total of such deaths increased again last year.
The suicide rate is 80 per cent higher north of the Border, but two and a half times greater among Scots aged 15-24.
Professor Steve Platt, of Edinburgh University, leading the government-funded research, said that age group was likely to carry their high suicide risk with them as they grew older.
He believes this may relate to factors such as high unemployment when they start work, which could trigger lifelong health and social problems.
The professor of health policy research said suicide risk used to increase with age, but over the past 25 years it had fallen among older people, but increased for the young.
The study comes as official figures showed total suicides in Scotland increased by five to 843 last year, the highest for six years and the third annual increase in a row. Men accounted for three-quarters of the total.
The suicide total equates to a rate of 16.1 per 100,000 people.
In 2007, the latest year for which comparative figures are available, the Scottish male rate was 24.1, compared with 16.8 across the UK.
The female rate was 7.7 in Scotland and five in the UK.
The 18-month project, which also involves academics from Glasgow and Manchester, will seek to establish why suicide rates in Scotland were lower than those in England before the 1960s, but then overtook them in the 1970s and remain far higher.
Prof Platt said: "This is the first systematic attempt to answer the question why Scotland has a suicide rate 80 per cent higher than that of England.
"Some people say it must be because Scotland has a more noxious psycho-social environment – but that doesn't explain why, prior to the 1960s, Scotland had a lower suicide rate."
He said that possible factors included greater and more widespread social adversity, poorer health care and the higher prevalence of alcohol and drug misuse in Scotland, compared with England.
The Scottish Public Health Observatory said that average suicide rates in Scotland fell by 10 per cent between 2000-2 and 2006-8.
The rates have hardly changed overall since 2003-5, but there has been a marginal increase in the male figure.
Rates varied across health board areas, but they increased with deprivation, and those in the most deprived 30 per cent of areas of Scotland were significantly higher than the rate for the whole country.
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