Child suicides fail to decline in 30 years

By Joe Lepper, Thursday 11 July 2013

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Around a third of all deaths of children and young people are now linked to assault or self-injury, analysis of data has found.

Troubled teenager

Around a third of child deaths are related to self-harm and assault, new research finds. Picture: Lucie Carlier

Researchers found that despite the number of child deaths falling by 70 per cent over the past 30 years, there has been no decline in mortality rates due to injuries caused by self-harm, assault or undetermined injuries.

There are around 800 children and young people who die each year in the UK, with deaths related to assault, self-harm or undetermined injuries accounting for 34 and 37 per cent respectively of injury deaths in boys and girls aged 10 to 18.

Boys aged between 10 and 18 are the most at-risk group and are almost three times more likely than girls of the same age to sustain fatal injuries.

The research of data between 1980 and 2010 has been carried out by University College London’s Institute of Child Health as part of a wider child health project by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Professor Ruth Gilbert, research lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The risk factors that contribute to deaths due to suicide or assault in children are complex and often accumulate over childhood. They include combinations of factors such as deprivation, alcohol or drug misuse and other mental health problems in children and their parents.

“The big tragedy shown in our research is that there has been no decline in deaths due to suicide and assault in older children in any UK country since 1980. This might surprise a lot of people because these types of injuries might be thought of as the most preventable.”

Rates of fatal injuries among children are significantly higher in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, than in England, the research also found.

The overall decline in UK child deaths is due to a decrease in injuries caused by accidents.

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