About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents data on probable suicide deaths among people aged 5-24 years, registered with the National Records of Scotland (NRS) during the period 2011 to 2020. The release examines changes in suicide characteristics among the 5-24 age group over time, explores differences between the 5-24 age group and the 25+ age group with regard to overall suicide risk and suicide characteristics, and investigates whether there is variation between the age sub-groups of 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24-year-olds.  

You can download a transcript of this video.

Main points

  • A quarter (25.7%) of all deaths among 5-24-year-olds were probable suicides. This compares to 1.2% of all deaths among those aged 25 and over.
  • The average suicide rate among 5–24-year-olds was 6.6 deaths per 100,000 people over the period 2011 to 2020. This was significantly lower than the average suicide rate of 17.5 deaths per 100,000 people among those aged 25 and over.
  • There is a significantly increasing linear trend in suicides in 5-24-year-olds as a proportion of all suicides across the period 2011 to 2020.
  • The suicide rate among 5-24-year-olds decreased in the first half of the 10-year period from 8.1 per 100,000 people in 2011 to a low of 4.4 per 100,000 people in 2015, before increasing to a high of 9.2 per 100,000 people in 2019. The suicide rate in the 25+ age group followed a similar pattern.
  • Hanging, strangulation and suffocation was the most commonly used method overall, and among males in both age groups and women aged 15-24 years. The use of this method was significantly more prevalent among 5-24-year-olds (63.9% of deaths) than among people aged 25 and over (45.9% of deaths).
  • Suicides among 5–24-year-olds were significantly less likely to occur in the home or a residential institution compared to suicides among people aged 25 and over.
  • 5-24-year-olds were significantly less likely to have had contact with a healthcare service in the period before death than people aged 25 and over. Overall, 65.6% of 5-24-year-olds had contact compared to 79.8% of those aged 25+.
  • The average suicide rate over the period was significantly lower among 15-19-year-olds (8.6 per 100,000) than among 20-24-year olds (14.7 per 100,000).
  • There were significant differences in the proportion of all deaths attributed to probable suicide in 2011 to 2020 between the 5-year age subgroups composing the 5-24 group. The proportion increased with age: 10.6% of deaths were attributed to suicide among 10-14-year-olds, 26.4% among 15-19-year-olds, and 31.1% among 20-24-year-olds.
  • Across the 5-24 age group, suicide was the leading cause of death, accounting for a greater proportion of lives lost (25.7%) than accidental poisonings (14.1%) and land transport accidents (10.1%). Suicide was also the leading cause of death in the 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, considered separately.


This report presents an analysis of selected information held on the Scottish Suicide Information Database (ScotSID). The overall purpose of ScotSID, which was established in 2009, is to provide a central repository for information on all probable suicide deaths in Scotland, in order to support epidemiology, policy-making and preventive activity.

ScotSID links the finalised NRS death records for probable suicides with selected data sources held by PHS. This release uses linked information on prescriptions, Accident & Emergency attendances, psychiatric outpatient appointments, acute and psychiatric hospital stays, contacts with Unscheduled Care services, and assessments by specialist drug services.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.mentalhealthanalytics@phs.scot.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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