During the months following the first lockdown due to COVID-19 in England, suicides did not increase, according to results of a study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.
Data about suspected suicides between January and October of 2020 were collected via real-time surveillance (RTS) and by the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, a collaborative suicide prevention program. These rates were compared with coroner-confirmed suicides during equivalent time periods from 2016-2018 and in 2019.
During COVID-19, compared with January, suicides peaked in July (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.15; 95% CI, 0.92-1.43; P =.23) and were lowest in October (IRR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.61-0.96; P =.02) without any discernable pattern. In the same regions, between 2016 and 2018, coroner-confirmed suicides peaked in June (IRR, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.93-1.23; P =.30) and were lowest in October (IRR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.79-1.09; P =.37). Across all of England during 2016-2018, suicides varied from their lowest in September (IRR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.88-1.04; P =.27) to the highest in May (IRR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.98-1.11; P =.33).
Stratified by lockdown status, the suspected suicide rates did not differ during lockdown (April-May; IRR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.81-1.25; P =.96) or post-lockdown (June-October; IRR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.81-1.09; P =.40) compared with pre-lockdown (January-March). During 2016-2018, the equivalent lockdown (IRR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.96-1.17; P =.28) and post-lockdown (IRR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.95-1.06; P =.81) months did not differ significantly for coroner-confirmed suicides in the same regions. Across all of England, during the equivalent time period as during lockdown, confirmed suicides were significantly elevated (IRR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02-1.12; P =.01).
Compared month by month to the previous year, no significant differences were observed except for in October, in which there were fewer suicides in 2020 compared with 2019 (IRR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.58-0.92; P =.01).
This study may have been limited by not including data on demographics, it may be possible that certain subgroups of the population who were more affected had differing rates of suicides during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study authors concluded there was little evidence to suggest that there has been an increase in suicides due to COVID-19 in England.
Appleby L, Richards N, Ibrahim S, Turnbull P, Rodway C, Kapur N. Suicide in England in the COVID-19 pandemic: Early observational data from real time surveillance. Lancet Reg Health. Published online April 20, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.lanepe.2021.100110