Changes in coroners' practice may be compromising quality of suicide statistics

November 1, 2013
Changes in Coroners’ practice may be compromising quality of suicide statistics

Assessment of official suicide statistics found that between 1990 and 2005, the proportion of researcher-defined suicides given a verdict of suicide by the 12 coroners studied decreased by almost seven per cent, largely because of the increased use of misadventure/accident verdicts for deaths thought, on clinical review, to be suicides. Growth in the use of narrative verdicts by coroners may also have compromised assessment of small area differences in suicide rates. This is just one of the key findings from a report, published in the first issue of the new National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) journal Programme Grants for Applied Research, aimed at reducing premature mortality from suicide and non-fatal self-harm.

Suicide and are the most serious and devastating consequences of mental illness. More than 4,000 people take their lives every year in England and there are over 200,000 hospital presentations for self-harm annually.

Comprising findings from four linked studies led by the UK's leading experts in the field including University of Bristol academics, the report provides new evidence aimed at improving management of self-harm, reducing the incidence of and providing reliable data to evaluate the impact of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England (2002).

Key findings from the studies include:

  • The impact of UK legislation to reduce pack sizes of paracetamol was followed by a 43 per cent reduction in number of deaths and a 61 per cent reduction in registrations for liver transplantation over the following 11 years with the majority of sales outlets appearing mostly to be adhering to sales guidance.
  • An initiative to withdraw the painkiller co-proxamol from use in the UK following concerns over its widespread use for suicidal poisoning was found to have resulted in approximately 600 fewer deaths than predicted between 2005 and 2010 based on previous trends, with no evidence of substitution by poisoning with other analgesics.
  • An assessment of the relative toxicity in overdose of commonly used tricyclic antidepressants, found dosulepin and doxepin had the greatest toxicity. Citalopram was more toxic than other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
  • An audit of self-harm management found there was marked variation between hospitals in the management of self-harm; effects of this variation on patient outcomes were unclear, although psychosocial assessment may have been associated with reduced repetition. Levels of specialist assessment remained static between 2001–2 and 2010–11, but service quality appeared to improve.
  • Assessment of official suicide statistics found that between 1990 and 2005, the proportion of researcher-defined suicides given a verdict of suicide by the 12 coroners studied decreased by almost seven per cent, largely because of the increased use of misadventure/accident verdicts for deaths thought, on clinical review, to be suicides. Use of narrative verdicts increased markedly. Coroners who gave more narrative verdicts also gave fewer suicide verdicts, and geographical variations in the use of narrative verdicts appeared to distort reliable assessment of small-area differences in .

Explore further: Concern over accuracy of suicide rates in England and Wales

Related Stories

Concern over accuracy of suicide rates in England and Wales

October 7, 2011
The increasing use of "narrative verdicts" by coroners in England and Wales may be leading to greater underestimation of suicide rates, warn experts in the British Medical Journal today, based on ongoing research part funded ...

Female deaths much less likely to be reported to coroner in England and Wales

July 29, 2013
Doctors in England and Wales are much less likely to report a woman's death to a coroner than they are a man's, reveals research published online in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Fall in deaths involving painkiller co-proxamol after drug withdrawn in UK

May 8, 2012
During the six years following the withdrawal of the analgesic co-proxamol in the UK in 2005, there was a major reduction in poisoning deaths involving this drug, without apparent significant increase in deaths involving ...

Suicide risk for older people who self-harm

May 2, 2012
Older people who self-harm are at much greater risk of suicide than both the general population and younger adults who self-harm, a new study has found. Researchers from The University of Manchester studied 1,177 people over ...

Financial crisis drives up Greek suicide rate

September 10, 2013
Suicides increased by 45 percent during the first four years of Greece's financial crisis, a mental health aid group said Tuesday, warning there are indications of a further "very large rise" over the past two years.

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.