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The Isle of Wight Suicide Study: a case study of suicide in a limited geographic area

  • H. Shahpesandy (a1), M. Oakes (a2) and Ad van Heeswijck (a3)

Suicide is a major public health problem, with mental disorders being one of its major risk factors. The high incidence of suicide on the Isle of Wight has motivated this study, the first of its kind on suicide in this small geographic area.


The aim of the study was to identify socio-demographic and clinical risk factors for suicide in the population of service users and non-service users, and gender-related characteristics of suicidal behaviour in a limited geographic region.


Data were collected on 68 cases of suicide (ICD-10×60-X84) from residents of the Isle of Wight District between January 2006 and December 2009. All data were statistically analysed using Pearson’s χ2 test and Yates’ correction for continuity.


The mean annual suicide rates over the period were 5.65 per 100 000 for women and 19.28 for men. Significantly (p=0.0006), more men than women (male/female ratio 3:1) died as a result of suicide. Relatively (p=0.07) more women (56.2%) than men (32.7%), and significantly more (p=0.05) service users (45.3%) than non-service users (13.3%) were unemployed. Significantly, more (p=0.0006) service users (64%) than non-service users (20%) had a history of suicide attempts and relatively (p=0.06) more (50.9%) service users than non-service users (20%) had attended the accident and emergency department before their death; 69% had an adverse life event within a year before their suicide. Depression as the most common Axis-I illness was diagnosed in 36% of all; but significantly (p=0.008) more in women (66.6%) than men (17.3%). Relatively (p=0.07) more women (56.2%) than men (32.7%) have contacted services before their death. Suicide by hanging was the most common cause, accounting for the death of 71% of men and 50% of women.


The study found that 80% of all suicides occurred in people suffering from mental disorder. Men are at a significant risk of suicide. Depressive disorders in women and stress-related disorders in men were the most common mental disorders. Treating mental disorders and co-morbid conditions seems to be one of the key elements in suicide prevention strategies.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr H. Shahpesandy, MD, Ph.D., MSc, Consultant Psychiatrist Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust. (Email:;
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Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0790-9667
  • EISSN: 2051-6967
  • URL: /core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine
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