Suicide 'leading cause of death among children and young adults'

Figures show a quarter of deaths of children and young adults aged between five and 24 were probable suicides.

Suicide leading cause of death among children and adults aged five to 24, Public Health Scotland report finds iStock

Suicide is a leading cause of death for people aged between five and 24 in Scotland, according to new figures.

Statistics published by Public Health Scotland indicated that a quarter (25.7%) of all deaths among people in the age group were probable suicides.

It is significantly lower than the 1.2% of all deaths among those aged 25 and over.

The suicide rate among those between the ages of five and 24 fell from 8.1 per 100,000 people in 2011 to a low of 4.4 per 100,000 in 2015.

However, it increased to a high of 9.2 per 100,000 people in 2019, with the suicide rate in the over 25 age group following a similar pattern.

Across the age category, suicide was the leading cause of death, making up a greater proportion of lives lost (25.7%) than accidental poisonings (14.1%) and land transport accidents (10.1%).

Suicide was also the leading cause of death in the ten to 14 years, 15 to 19 years and 20 to 24 years age groups.

Professor Steve Platt, chair of the ScotSID Steering Group and emeritus professor of health policy research at the University of Edinburgh, said there was an average of nearly seven suicides each month.

“Thankfully, suicide is far less common in those aged five to 24 than among older adults,” said Platt.

“Nevertheless, during the period covered by the report, there were 820 young people resident in Scotland who died by suicide.

“That’s an average of nearly seven each month, considerably more than the number of young people dying by road accidents.

“Through ScotSID we are learning more about the circumstances and characteristics of suicide deaths.

“This knowledge will help us to develop more effective preventative action in future.”

Richmond Davies, head of health, Wellbeing and Social Care at PHS, said the health body will continue to work to identify actions to reduce avoidable deaths.

“ScotSID links finalised NRS death records for suicides with selected data sources held by PHS,” said Davies.

“By doing so, we are able to improve our understanding of suicide so we can work to identify preventative activities and programmes.

“PHS will continue to use data and evidence and, with our partners, identify actions that can be taken to reduce avoidable deaths across all of our communities in Scotland.”

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

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