Suicide rates in the UK have seen the largest decrease in 20 years, official figures reveal.
There were 3.6% fewer suicides registered in 2016 than in 2015 – a decrease by 223 deaths from 6,188, Office for National Statistics data shows.
Rates fell for both men and women, although men still account for three-quarters of cases.
Experts believe the drop shows suicide-prevention initiatives are helping.
For deaths registered in 2016 in the UK:
- people aged 40 to 44 years had the highest suicide rate – 15.3 per 100,000
- this age group also had the highest rate among males – 24.1 per 100,000
- the age group with the highest rate for females was 50 to 54 years
- the English rate has fallen a significant amount, the Welsh and Northern Ireland rates have both fallen slightly, and the Scottish rate has risen a small amount
Mental health problems are important influences, as well as alcohol and substance misuse.
Relationship breakdown can also be a factor – suicide risk is high among divorced men.
Bereavement and social loneliness can be contributors.
From 1981 to 1990, men aged 75 and over had the highest age-specific suicide rate. Between 1981 and 2016, the male rate of suicide for this age group more than halved.
The Samaritans says deprivation is another link. Men from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than those in more affluent areas.
A spokeswoman said: "There is still a lot of work to be done because suicide still kills three times more people than road traffic accidents.
"Samaritans is working hard with partners, including the NHS, other charities and local authorities, to bring these figures down further.
"Suicide is not inevitable, it's preventable and politicians, employers, health bodies and educators all have a role in identifying and supporting those most at risk."
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, the mental health charity, said: "It is encouraging to see that the number of suicides appears to be falling. Not all suicides are mental-health related but the majority are and we know from previous research that there has been particular progress when it comes to people in touch with mental health services.
"We need to ensure that these are the beginnings of much longer-term trends – we lose almost 6,000 lives a year to suicide and every one is a tragedy, so despite these positive findings it is clear that we still have a long way to go."