About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents data on deaths due to probable suicides registered with the National Records of Scotland (NRS) during the 11-year period 2011 to 2021. There is a particular focus on contact with hospital and community health services.

Main points

  • Between 2011 and 2021, 8,330 individuals aged 5+ years died from suicide in Scotland. The average annual suicide rate over this period was 14.8 per 100,000 people aged 5+ years.
  • Overall, the annual crude rate of suicide has fallen from 17.6 per 100,000 (with 880 deaths) in 2011 to 14.2 per 100,000 (with 740 deaths) in 2021.
  • Just under three-quarters (73.2%) were male. The ratio of male:female suicide rates was 2.9.
  • Almost half (44.8%) were aged 35–54 years at the time of death.
  • Just under three-quarters (73.5%) were single, widowed or divorced. 87.4% were of working age (16–64 years), and, of these, over two-thirds (68.7%) were in employment at the time of death.
  • Suicide deaths were nearly three times more likely among those living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas than among those living in the least deprived areas.
  • ‘Hanging, strangulation and suffocation’ was the most common method of suicide, and the method in almost half of all cases. This was the most common method of suicide for males, whereas ‘poisoning’ was the most common method for females.
  • The prevalence of ‘hanging, strangulation and suffocation’ decreases considerably with age. This is particularly pronounced in women, with the prevalent method changing from ‘hanging, strangulation and suffocation’ to ‘poisoning’ as age increases.
  • Prevalence of method has changed between 2011 and 2021, with ‘hanging, strangulation and suffocation’ increasing and ‘poisoning’ notably decreasing.
  • Over three-quarters (78.4%) had contact with at least one of the 10 healthcare services for which data are available in ScotSID, in either the 90 days before death (for those attending A&E) or in the 12 months before death (for all other healthcare services).
  • Nearly a third (30.3%) had a general hospital discharge in the 12 months before death.
  • Fewer than one in eight (12%) were discharged from psychiatric inpatient/day case in the 12 months prior to death.
  • 30.5% attended accident and emergency (A&E) in the 90 days before their death and 15% were in contact with the Scottish Ambulance Service in the 30 days before their death.


This report presents an analysis of selected information held on 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. This is 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, A&E attendances, psychiatric outpatient appointments, acute and psychiatric hospital stays, contacts with unscheduled care services, contact with maternity 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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