About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) is the annual update of suicide statistics on the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) website. It is based on information from National Records of Scotland (NRS) on deaths from suicide registered in 2020. The publication is released on the same day as NRS publish their 2020 suicide statistics. 

Main points

  • There were 805 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2020, which is a decrease from 833 in 2019.
  • Just under three-quarters (71.4%) of people who died by suicide in 2020 were male (575 males, 230 females).
  • The highest crude rate of suicide for males occurs in the 35 – 44 age group and for females in the 45 – 54 age group.
Image caption Deaths caused by probable suicide(1) – Crude rates per 100,000 population by sex and age group(2), Scotland 2020
A chart showing the crude rate of suicide in Scotland in 2020, broken down by age group and sex.  Rates of suicide are consistently and substantially higher among males than among females. The rate of suicide peaks at 35-44 for males and 45-54 for females.

Tables containing the same information as this chart are available in the Excel files which are published on the ScotPHO website.

1 Rates are based on the new WHO coding rules. See ‘Background’ section for more information.
2 The age groups 0-14 and 85+ years are excluded from the chart to protect patient confidentiality.

  • There is a known link between deprivation and suicide. The probable suicide rate (both crude and age-sex standardised) in the period 2016 - 2020 was three and a half times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas.


‘Probable suicides’ refers to deaths from intentional self-harm and events of undetermined intent. The latter category includes cases where it is not clear whether the death is a suicide. However, it is understood that the majority of deaths of this type are actually suicides, and therefore they have been included in this report.

In 2011, National Records of Scotland changed their coding rules for certain causes of death. Some deaths previously coded under 'mental and behavioural disorders' are now classed as 'self-poisoning of undetermined intent' and consequently are classified as suicides.

In 2018, the Scottish Government released Every Life Matters, the latest Suicide Prevention Action Plan, which sets out clear actions leaders at a national, regional and local level must take to transform society’s response and attitudes towards suicide.

Further information

The publication and supporting information can be found on the Scottish Public Health Observatory website. A technical paper describing the data and methodology used in this release is also available.

Open data from this publication is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform.

The next release of this publication will be in summer 2022.

Further information on suicide in Scotland, including people’s contact with healthcare services in the period before death, can be found in the most recent report from the Scottish Suicide Information Database.

General enquiries

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

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

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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