Female Student Suicides Reach New High — for Second Consecutive Year

The number of female students in England & Wales dying by suicide rose acutely to reach new highs in 2016, according to newly released data. Total student suicides also rose to new highs for the third consecutive year.

The number of recorded deaths by suicide of female university students in England and Wales rose from 41 to 51 between 2015 and 2016, representing a 24% increase year to year. This was the highest number of deaths in a year since at least 2001. From 2014 and 2015, the number of female student suicides also rose by 24%.

The number of male students dying by suicide for the year 2016 was 95, a small increase on 2015, but two fewer than the highest recorded number of male suicides in 2014. Male and female figures combined show a year-on-year increase between 2014 and 2016, with each year reaching new record figures since records begin in 2001. The UK student population increased by only 0.7% between 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

In the general population, the number of male suicides typically far exceeds the number of female suicides. Although there has been an increase in female suicides in the general population in recent years, the male rate of suicide remains three times higher. 2016 was the first year in which the number of female students represented more than half the number of male student suicides, breaking from broader population trends.

One explanation for increasing rates of student suicide might be the increase in student debt associated with rising tuition fees. A 2016 study at the University of Southampton found that students facing financial difficulties were at increased risk of depression and alcohol dependency.

It was reported in the Independent last year that female graduates earn less than male students after ten years of graduating, and that female students’ expectations for their starting salary were 14% lower than the expectations of male students.

The student suicide data were released by the Office of National Statistics following a freedom of information request by mental health campaigner, Ed Pinkney.

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