Young adult suicide ‘cluster’ found in Scotland

Friday 13 July 2007

Suicide rates in young adults have increased dramatically in Scotland’s most deprived areas, according to new research from the University of St Andrews.

The study by health geographers Dr Daniel Exeter and Professor Paul Boyle is the first in the world to identify a `persistent, and remarkably consistent’ geographical ‘cluster’ of young adult suicide.  The cluster is focused on East Glasgow.

It builds on other recent research which found that, during the two decades 1980-2000, young people (aged 15-44) in Scotland’s poorest areas became more than four times as likely to commit suicide than those in its least deprived areas.

The study was carried out by PhD student Daniel Exeter using data from the General Register Office for Scotland over the last twenty years.

Dr Exeter, the project researcher, said, “The finding demonstrates that suicide is particularly high in the most deprived part of Scotland. The fact that this single cluster was consistent  over two decades is remarkable.”

Advanced geographical clustering techniques were applied to suicide data captured in three-year periods around the time of the 1981, 1991 and 2001 censuses.  For the most recent three-year period analysed (1999 – 2001), there were 245 observed suicides compared to an expected 161 in the East Glasgow cluster.

However, the research further showed that the cluster became insignificant once the deprivation circumstances of the area were taken into account.  The results demonstrate that East Glasgow has particularly high suicide rates among young adults but that this can be explained by the high levels of deprivation in this area.

“Factors which are known to influence suicide, such as drug misuse, divorce and unemployment, are likely to be more common in such deprived areas,” explained Dr Exeter.

The research has significant policy implications.  The ‘Choose Life’ initiative funded by the Scottish Executive aims to reduce suicide rates by twenty percent between 2003 and 2013 and in its initial report the only geographical focus identified as deserving special priority were ‘people in isolated or rural communities’.

Professor Paul Boyle, the project supervisor, commented, “The results of this new study suggest that East Glasgow is an important area to target if the aim of realising such a significant reduction in suicide is to be achieved, particularly since the 245 suicides identified in the most recent cluster represented 19% of all Scottish non-institutional suicides in that period.”

The research is published by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.



For more information, please contact Professor Paul Boyle, School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews – telephone 01334 462 397 or email [email protected]  or Dr Daniel Exeter, Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland – email [email protected]


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Ref:  suicide in Scotland 130707
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