Identifying probable suicide clusters in wales using national mortality data

Phillip Jones, David Gunnell, Stephen Platt, Jonathan Scourfield, Keith Lloyd, Peter Huxley, Ann John, Babar Kamran, Claudia Wells, Michael Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Up to 2% of suicides in young people may occur in clusters i.e., close together in time and space. In early 2008 unprecedented attention was given by national and international news media to a suspected suicide cluster among young people living in Bridgend, Wales. This paper investigates the strength of statistical evidence for this apparent cluster, its size, and temporal and geographical limits.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: The analysis is based on official mortality statistics for Wales for 2000-2009 provided by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS). Temporo-spatial analysis was performed using Space Time Permutation Scan Statistics with SaTScan v9.1 for suicide deaths aged 15 and over, with a sub-group analysis focussing on cases aged 15-34 years. These analyses were conducted for deaths coded by ONS as: (i) suicide or of undetermined intent (probable suicides) and (ii) for a combination of suicide, undetermined, and accidental poisoning and hanging (possible suicides). The temporo-spatial analysis did not identify any clusters of suicide or undetermined intent deaths (probable suicides). However, analysis of all deaths by suicide, undetermined intent, accidental poisoning and accidental hanging (possible suicides) identified a temporo-spatial cluster (p = 0.029) involving 10 deaths amongst 15-34 year olds centred on the County Borough of Bridgend for the period 27(th) December 2007 to 19(th) February 2008. Less than 1% of possible suicides in younger people in Wales in the ten year period were identified as being cluster-related.

CONCLUSIONS: There was a possible suicide cluster in young people in Bridgend between December 2007 and February 2008. This cluster was smaller, shorter in duration, and predominantly later than the phenomenon that was reported in national and international print media. Further investigation of factors leading to the onset and termination of this series of deaths, in particular the role of the media, is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e71713
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Distribution
  • Suicide
  • Wales
  • Young Adult


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