Impact of the growing use of narrative verdicts by coroners on geographic variations in suicide: Analysis of coroners' inquest data

R. Carroll, K. Hawton, N. Kapur, O. Bennewith, D. Gunnell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Background Coroners' death certificates form the basis of suicide statistics in England and Wales. Recent increases in coroners' use of narrative verdicts may affect the reliability of local and national suicide rates.MethodWe used Ministry of Justice data on inquests held between 2008 and 2009 and Local Authority suicide data (200102 and 200809) to investigate variations between coroners in their use of narrative verdicts and the impact of these on suicide rates, using 'other' verdicts (79 of which are narratives) as a proxy for narrative verdicts.ResultsThere was wide geographic variation in Coroners' use of 'other' (mainly narrative) verdictsthey comprised between 0 and 50 (median 9) of verdicts given by individual coroners in 200809. Coroners who gave more 'other' verdicts gave fewer suicide verdicts (r-0.41; P<0.001). In the 10 English Coroners' jurisdictions where the highest proportion of 'other' verdicts were given, the incidence of suicide decreased by 16 between 200102 and 200809, whereas it did not change in areas served by the 10 coroners who used narratives the least.ConclusionsVariation in Coroners' use of narrative verdicts influences the validity of reported regional suicide rates. Small-area suicide rates, and changes in these rates over time in the last decade, should be interpreted with caution. © 2012 The Author.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)447-453
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Public Health
    Volume34
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

    Keywords

    • epidemiology
    • mental health
    • mortality

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