It has prompted a fresh warning for doctors and other clinicians to be “vigilant” to the dangers of self-harm among younger people which is now “relatively common”.
The Scottish Government is currently under pressure over the issue, with Health Secretary Shona Robison yesterday pledging an inquiry into suicide services on Tayside will be “fully independent” following the case of David Ramsay, who hung himself after twice being turned away from a Dundee treatment centre.
The extent of the suicide problem across Scotland has emerged in a Glasgow University-led study of 18-34-year-olds which also revealed that one in six (16.2 per cent) have reported self-harm at some stage in their lives.
Researchers found that one in nine (11.3 per cent) young people have attempted suicide. Almost one quarter (22.8 per cent) of young people reported have thought about suicide at some stage in their life, the study finds, and 10.4 per cent last thought about suicide in the past 12 months.
Lead author Prof Rory O’Connor, said: “Suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm are major public health concerns that affect large numbers of young people. Until now, there have been few studies that estimated how common these thoughts and behaviours were in young adults in the country.
“These results are stark, and serve to highlight the scale of suicide attempts and self-harm in our country’s young people.”
He added: “We hope our findings also emphasise the importance to clinicians, and others involved in the care of young people, to be vigilant given that suicide attempts and self-harm are relatively common.”
The report said: “Given the prevalence of suicide attempts and NSSH (non-suicidal self-harm) in this age group, they should routinely enquire about history of self-injurious behaviour, especially as past behaviour is such a strong predictor of suicide.”
Women were found to be significantly more likely to report self-harm and suicide attempts than men.
The findings are timely, with the Scottish Government to publish a new suicide prevention action plan in the coming months.
The study is a collaboration between the universities of Glasgow, Stirling, Leeds and Nottingham and is published in the journal BJPsych Open.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We welcome research that helps to shed light on the causes of suicide and how better to prevent it. Scotland has seen a significant fall of 17 per cent in the overall suicide rate over the past decade, and we have seen particular progress with the age group covered in this research.
“Among 15 to 34-year-olds, there has a been a decrease of 34 per cent over the past decade. We are currently engaging with stakeholders on a draft suicide prevention action plan in order to continue this strong downward trend, and we have discussed our plan with Professor O’Connor.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “It’s unthinkable that so many young people have been driven to such extreme destructive measures and leaves real questions about why the necessary help wasn’t in place for them.”