Time trends in coroners' use of different verdicts for possible suicides and their impact on officially reported incidence of suicide in England: 1990-2005

D. Gunnell*, O. Bennewith, S. Simkin, John Cooper, E. Klineberg, C. Rodway, L. Sutton, S. Steeg, C. Wells, K. Hawton, N. Kapur

*Corresponding author for this work

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

62 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background. Official suicide statistics for England are based on deaths given suicide verdicts and most cases given an open verdict following a coroner's inquest. Previous research indicates that some deaths given accidental verdicts are considered to be suicides by clinicians. Changes in coroners' use of different verdicts may bias suicide trend estimates. We investigated whether suicide trends may be over-or underestimated when they are based on deaths given suicide and open verdicts.

Method. Possible suicides assessed by 12 English coroners in 1990/91, 1998 and 2005 and assigned open, accident/ misadventure or narrative verdicts were rated by three experienced suicide researchers according to the likelihood that they were suicides. Details of all suicide verdicts given by these coroners were also recorded.

Results. In 1990/91, 72.0% of researcher-defined suicides received a suicide verdict from the coroner, this decreased to 65.4% in 2005 (p(trend)

Conclusions. Between 1990/91 and 2005, the proportion of researcher-defined suicides given a suicide verdict by coroners decreased, largely due to an increased use of accident/misadventure verdicts, particularly for deaths involving poisoning. Consideration should be given to the inclusion of `accidental ' deaths by poisoning with medicines in the statistics available for monitoring suicides rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1415-1422
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume43
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

Keywords

  • Cause of death
  • classification methods
  • suicide
  • suicide statistics
  • time trends
  • UNDETERMINED DEATHS
  • WALES
  • STATISTICS

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