Suicide rates THREE times lower in people who go to uni, data shows

Suicide rates are THREE times lower in young people who go to university, official data suggests

  • People in higher education were roughly three times less likely to die by suicide
  • Official data also recorded 2020 had lowest suicide rate in students in four years
  • People who need confidential support can call the Samaritans on 116123

Young people who go to university are almost three times less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t, official data suggests. 

An Office of National Statistics (ONS) report looked at the rates in the general population compared to people in higher education, which also included college.

It found that, between 2017 and 2020, suicides among under-25s in England and Wales were 2.7 times lower in people studying compared to those who were not.

More mature students, those aged over 25 and above had suicide rates about 2.4 times lower than the general population.

It is not clear if the pandemic impacted the trend, when universities and colleges moved to online tutoring and many students were sent home.

The ONS found 319 students had died by suicide in England and Wales between 2017 and 2020, almost two-thirds of which were men.

This meant university students had an overall suicide rate of 3.9 per 100,000 people, far lower than the general population rate of 12.5 per 100,000. 

ONS data shows people of all ages were less likely to die by suicide if they were in higher education. Students under the age of 25 were 2.7 times less likely to kill themselves than the general population

The data for the past four years also shows 2020 had the lowest suicide rate among higher education students in the past four years, 3 per 100,000 people

Male first year undergraduates were the students most at risk of suicide with a rate of 7.8 deaths per 100,000

By age group, students under the age of 20 had a suicide rate of 3.1 per 100,000, 2.7 times lower than teenagers in the general population which have a suicide rate of 8.4 per 100,000.

Students in their early-to-mid 20s also had a suicide rate 2.7 times lower than that people of the same age in the general population, 3.6 per 100,000 compared to 9.8. 

ONS statisticians said while the data showed university students were at lower risk of suicide, every death was still a tragedy. 

Figures for 2020 also showed the lowest suicide rates in students in four years further dashing fears pandemic lockdowns would see a spike in deaths. 

However, the effects of 2021 are yet to be seen and the ONS said data for suicides in 2020 could change if more deaths are registered. 

ONS data for mature students also showed they had a lower rates of suicide than the general population. 

It recorded 4.6 suicides per 100,000 for people aged 25-to-29 and 5.5 per 100,000 for those over 30-years-old.

A record number of children are now being treated for mental health problems on the NHS, according to figures.

Latest NHS figures reveal 420,000 under-18s were either undergoing treatment or waiting to start in February.

This is a 54 per cent rise in the number of young people seeking help compared to the same time in 2020, before the pandemic struck. 

Experts say Covid has exacerbated mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and self-harm among children. NHS services may be overwhelmed by rising demand for help, campaigners fear. 

Virus restrictions and school closures damaged the mental health of UK children by disrupting their routines and decreasing social contact with friends. 

This is 2.4 times lower than the suicide rates for these age groups in the general population, which are 11.3 and 13.4 per 100,000 respectively. 

For the four years analysed, suicide rates in male university students were 5.6 per 100,000 compared to 2.5 in female students.

This in line with general suicide statistics, with men at greater risk of taking their own lives. 

Julie Stanborough, ONS head of Health Analysis and Life Events said while people studying at university were less likely to kill themselves than those who didn’t, every death from suicide was still a preventable loss.   

‘While higher education students have lower rates of suicides compared with the general population of similar ages, every suicide is a tragedy for those involved,’ she said.

‘This analysis aims to provide insight and help those who develop suicide prevention policies and initiatives among higher education students.’

The data also showed that in 2020, the first year of the Covid pandemic, there were 64 suicides among higher education students.

This translates to a rate of 3 per 100,000, the lowest rate in the last four years, though ONS statisticians say the overall low number of deaths by suicides mean year-on-year comparisons make it difficult to identify significant differences. 

An estimated 6,000 Britons and 48,000 Americans die by suicide each year.

Attempted suicides thought to be 10 to 20 times higher than these figures.

The ONS study comes amid growing concerns about the impact of the Covid pandemic and its lockdown restrictions on children and young people’s mental health.

Last week it was revealed that a record number of children are now being treated for mental health problems on the NHS in England. 

There has been a record growth in the number of children and young listed as having an ‘open referral’ with NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in England, with 420,314 as of February. This is a 147,853 rise compared to pre-pandemic figures according to figures seen by The Guardian

NHS figures show 420,000 under-18s were either undergoing treatment or waiting to start in February.

This is a 54 per cent rise in the number of young people seeking help compared to the same time in 2020, before the pandemic struck. 

Experts say Covid has exacerbated mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and self-harm among children. NHS services may be overwhelmed by rising demand for help, campaigners fear. 

Virus restrictions and school closures damaged the mental health of UK children by disrupting their routines and decreasing social contact with friends. 

  • For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, or click here for details

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