The incidence of suicide in University students in England and Wales 2000/2001–2016/2017: Record linkage study

David Gunnell*, Sarah Caul, Louis Appleby, Ann John, Keith Hawton

*Corresponding author for this work

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

36 Citations (Scopus)
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BackgroundThere are growing concerns about the mental health and risk of suicide amongst university students. 
AimTo investigate trends in the incidence and characteristics of university student suicides in England & Wales for the academic years 2000/01 to 2016/17.
MethodRecord linkage between Office for National Statistics mortality data and Higher Education Statistics Agency data for England and Wales. Poisson regression and chi-squared tests were used to investigate secular trends and the characteristics of students dying by suicide. 
ResultsThere were 1,330 student suicide deaths from 2000/01 to 2016/17; the annual incidence in 2015/16-2016/17 was 4.7 per 100,000 students. There was evidence of a rise in incidence since 2009/10 (incidence rate ratio per year 1.04 ((95CI 1.00-1.07) p=0.029). Incidence in 2012/13 to 2016/17 was less than half the rate in the general population of a similar age. Incidence was higher in males than females and amongst undergraduates vs. postgraduates. There was some evidence of a reduced risk amongst black compared to white students (RR 0.53 (95%CI 0.32-0.88). Incidence was highest in January and lowest during the summer holidays (July - September). 
LimitationsThere was no age/sex or sociodemographic breakdown of the overall student population for 2000/01 to 2011/12. 
ConclusionRates of suicide are considerably lower amongst students than the general population. In keeping with trends in young people in the wider population, the incidence of student suicide has increased since 2009/10. To inform prevention, research is needed to understand reasons for the rise in suicide in young people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-120
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date2 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Population Health Science Institute
  • SASH


  • Students
  • Suicide
  • Epidemiology
  • Trends


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  • NIHR BRC Mental Health

    Gunnell, D. J.


    Project: Research, Parent

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