Self harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts
Last updated 10 October 2019 - see all updates
1. Main facts and figures
- in 2014, a higher percentage of White British people than Asian people said they had had suicidal thoughts at some point in their life
- White British women were more likely to have self-harmed at some point in their lives than women from the Asian, Other White, and Black groups
- there were no other meaningful differences in the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide or self-harm
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following broad groups, based on the ONS harmonised ethnic group questions for use on national surveys:
- Asian/Asian British
- Black/Black British
- Mixed/Multiple and Other
- White British
- Other White
2. By ethnicity
|Ethnicity||Suicidal thoughts||Suicide attempts||Self-harm|
|White - British||21.6||6.9||8.1|
|White - Other||20.8||6.1||6.1|
Summary of Self harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts By ethnicity Summary
Interviewers for the APMS asked questions using the Clinical Interview Schedule - Revised (CIS-R).
Each survey involved interviewing a large stratified probability sample of the general population, covering people living in private households. The full adult age range was covered, with the youngest participants aged 16 and the oldest over 100.
The two-phase survey design involved an initial interview with the whole sample, followed by a structured assessment carried out by clinically trained interviewers with a subset of participants. People were assessed or screened for a range of different types of mental disorder, from common conditions like depression and anxiety disorder through to less common neurological and mental conditions such as psychotic disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The use of a survey to diagnose mental health conditions is not as reliable as a diagnosis made using a clinical interview. The assessments used have been validated, however, and are among the best available.
The resulting statistics for lifetime suicidal thoughts and self-harm have been age-standardised. This is because the prevalence of these measures is related to age, and the age profile (the number of people of different ages within an ethnic group) can differ considerably between ethnic groups. This adjustment allows comparisons to be made between ethnic groups as if they had the same age profile.
The survey covers people who live in private households. It doesn’t include those who live in institutional settings (such as hospitals or prisons) or in temporary housing (such as hostels or bed and breakfasts) or those who sleep rough. People living in such settings are likely to have worse mental health than those living in private households (Gill et al. 1996; cited in APMS 2014).
Where a selected participant could not take part in a long interview due to a physical or mental health condition, some information about this was recorded by the interviewer on the doorstep. This information may be biased, as in some cases it may have been collected from another household member.
Socially undesirable or stigmatised feelings and behaviours may be underreported. While this is a risk for any study based on self-report data, the study goes some way to minimising this by collecting particularly sensitive information in a self-completion format.
There were 7,546 respondents to the survey. Some people selected for the survey could not be contacted or refused to take part. The achieved response rate (57%) is in line with that of similar surveys (Barnes et al. 2010; cited in APMS 2014). Weighting helps take account of those who were selected for the survey but didn’t take part.
Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy. For example, a survey which contains 25% women and 75% men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population which we know is around 50% men and 50% women.
More detailed information on the weighting used here can be found on page 24 of the Methods chapter of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 (PDF).
The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the ‘download the data’ section and also available from the CSV downloads for ‘Percentage estimate of adults who have experienced: self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts over their lifetime, by sex and broad ethnic group, 2014’.
Of the White British women surveyed, 8.5% experienced a suicide attempt in their lifetime. This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of White British women in England who experienced a suicide attempt in their lifetime. However, because the APMS results are based on a random sample of adults aged 16 or older, it is impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.
It is 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 7.5% and 9.6% of all White British women in England experienced a suicide attempt in their lifetime. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall in this range (that is, between the upper and lower confidence interval). But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer women from the Black/Black British ethnic group were sampled for this survey than British White women, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by the wider confidence interval of between 1.8% and 8.2%.
Suppression rules and disclosure control
Risk to disclosure has been accounted for with limitations of the level of disaggregation, size of category groupings, and the maintaining of large underlying populations for analysis. No further suppression or other disclosure control has been applied.
Percentages have been rounded to one decimal point.
Further technical information
4. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Every 7 years (further publications dependent on further surveys being commissioned)
Purpose of data source
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey provides data on the prevalence of treated and untreated psychiatric disorders in English adults aged 16 and over.
5. Download the data
The percentage estimates of adults who have experienced: self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts over their lifetime, by sex and broad ethnic group in England 2014 based on results from the APMS. The estimates are provided with 95% confidence intervals.