Five out of every 1,000 deaths in Switzerland now involve assisted suicide, with women more likely to die this way than men, according to official figures released yesterday.

Swiss authorities recorded a steady rise of assisted suicides in recent years, from 43 in 1998 to 297 in 2009. Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1942.

The survey shows almost 90 per cent of cases involved people aged 55 or over.