I am writing to you to make a Freedom of Information Request regarding the increase in percentage of suicide deaths during the lockdown for COVID-19, compared to before this period and the amount of suicide deaths in total during this period. This runs from 23rd March - 14th January 2021 If possible, could I also have a comparison between deaths from Coronavirus and deaths from suicide during this time.
Thank you for your enquiry.
We are responsible for the production of mortality data for England and Wales. This is driven by information collected from the death certificate at death registration. National Records Scotland (NRS) and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for statistics pertaining to Scotland and Northern Ireland. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively.
Most suicides require an inquest, where a coroner investigates the death. The amount of time it takes to hold an inquest causes a lag between the date of death and the date of death registration, referred to as a registration delay. Registration delays for deaths caused by suicide tend to be 5 to 6 months on average.
Our most up-to-date analysis for suicide data are our quarterly provisional figures, accessible via the following link: Quarterly suicide death registrations in England: 2001 to 2019 registrations and Quarter 1 to Quarter 3 2020 (provisional). This provides suicides that have been registered from January to September 2020, along with age and sex breakdowns on table 2. This dataset also contains quarterly figures for England from previous years which you can use to make a comparison.
Please note, due to the registration delay, most of these deaths would have occurred in 2019. Unfortunately, we have not yet produced a finalised breakdown of suicides for England and Wales 2020.
Finalised annual suicides data for 2020 is scheduled to be published in September 2020. As such, the information you have requested is considered exempt under Section 22(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, whereby information is exempt from release if there is a view to publish the information in the future. Furthermore, as a central government department and producer of official statistics, we need to have the freedom to be able to determine our own publication timetables. This is to allow us to deal with the necessary preparation, administration and context of publications. It would be unreasonable to consider disclosure when to do so would undermine our functions.
This exemption is subject to a public interest test. We recognise the desirability of information being freely available and this is considered by ONS when publication schedules are set in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. The need for timely data must be balanced against the practicalities of applying statistical skill and judgement to produce the high quality, assured data needed to inform decision-making. If this balance is incorrectly applied, then we run the risk of decisions being based on inaccurate data which is arguably not in the public interest. This will have an impact on public trust in official statistics in a time when accuracy of official statistics is more important to the public than ever before.
COVID-19 mortality data 2020
Figure 2 of our Deaths registered weekly bulletin shows the number of deaths due to COVID-19 and the number of deaths involving COVID-19, with "due to" referring only to deaths where COVID-19 was recorded as the underlying cause of death and "involving" referring to deaths that had COVID-19 mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, whether as an underlying cause or not. Please see the download data option at the bottom of figure 2.
I have also added the total figures for you below for COVID-19 deaths that were registered up to week ending 22nd January. COVID-19 is the underlying cause of death in around 90% of deaths where it was mentioned on the death certificate. However, these figures do not exclude other secondary causes that may have contributed to a death. I have summed the figures for you below:
- Deaths involving COVID-19 (underlying or secondary cause): 110,987
- Deaths due to COVID-19 (underlying cause): 100,523
These figures are weekly, but you may be able to plot timeframes from this data to make your required comparisons.
If you would like to discuss your request further, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.