Suicide rates among women in their early twenties is at its highest level in two decades, new ONS figures reveal.
While the overall figures show suicide rates in the UK are at a seven-year low, women aged between 20 and 24 are increasingly likely to take their own life, leading to experts warning of a mental health crisis.
Last year, 106 deaths by suicide were recorded among this age group; the first time the number is been more than 100 since 1992, when it was 111. At 5.2, the rate per 100,000 women in this age group is the highest it has been since 1998, when it was 5.7.
Speaking about the findings, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Jenny Edwards, told the Telegraph that the figures were “troubling”.
“We know that particularly for young women their rate of poor mental health is three times that of their male contemporaries,” she said.
“Something is going on – social media use is one part but another is relationships between the sexes. They’ve got a lot more insecurity in their lives than their parents did.”
“There’s a tendency to blame ourselves if things aren’t working out for us. Particularly if the message we’re getting from social media is that everyone else is living fantastic lives, has got good holidays, and good jobs. That’s a fairytale that can affect our overall mental health.”
Indeed last year, a study confirmed that Instagram is more damaging to self-esteem than traditional magazines and adverts.
But though the statistics for suicides among young women are concerning, experts believe the overall drop represents an apparent success for government prevention measures.
There were 5,688 suicides last year – about 200 fewer than the previous year.
The ONS said that the decline could most likely be attributed to the growing awareness surrounding mental health and anti-suicide prevention work by the government, NHS, and charities such as the Samaritans and Mind.
There has been a downward trend over the past 36 years since a high of 14.8 deaths per 100,000 in 1981 to lows of 9.8 in 2007 and 9.9 in 2010. However, the rate climbed back up to 10.9 cases per 100,000 in 2013.
The rate for men was three times higher than that for women and the peak age for death by suicide is between 40 and 44 among males.
But though the overall findings are encouraging in some ways, experts say the figures are still too high.
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans told The Times: “Even though a fall in suicides is welcome, 5,668 in one year is too high. Samaritans is working hard with partners, including the NHS, other charities and local authorities, to bring these figures down further.”
“They emphasise the urgency with which we as a society need to work together to prevent needless loss of life.”
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