The North East has the highest suicide rate in England – almost twice as high as London, official figures show

The male suicide rate for deaths registered in 2013 hit its highest rate since 2001, the Office for National Statistics has said

The North East of England had the highest suicide rate of all other regions in the country for deaths registered in 2013, official figures have revealed, as the number of male suicides overall hit their highest rate since 2001.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, there was a total of 6,233 suicides recorded among people aged 15 and over in 2013 – an increase of 252 (four per cent) on the previous year.

In England, the suicide rate stood at 10.7 deaths per 100,000 (4,722 deaths), compared to 15.6 per 100,000 (393 deaths) in Wales. This was the highest rate in Wales since 1982.

The highest rate of the English regions was in the North East, with 13.8 deaths per 100,000 population, almost twice as high as London, which had the lowest rate of 7.9 per 100,000.

Of the total number of suicides in the UK, 78 per cent were male and 22 per female, the ONS has said.

Overall, the UK suicide rate was 11.9 deaths per 100,000 population, with the male level more than three times higher than for females, at 19 male deaths per 100,000.

The highest rate was among men aged 45 to 59, with 25.1 deaths per 100,000 – the highest for this age group since 1981.

Women between the ages 45 and 59 had the highest suicide rate among females, with seven deaths per 100,000 population.

The ONS said the male rate of suicide had "increased significantly" since 2007, with females rates staying "relatively constant".

In 1981, 63 per cent of UK suicides were male, compared with 37 per cent who were female.

Suicide remained the leading cause of death in England and Wales for men aged 20 to 34, accounting for 24 per cent of all deaths in 2013, and for men aged 35 to 49, with 13 per cent of all deaths.

Professor Shirley Reynolds, director of the University of Reading's Charlie Waller Institute for Evidence-Based Psychological Treatment, said regional differences in suicide rates could be a reflection of local economic conditions and unemployment rates.

"The rise in UK suicides is sadly not surprising," she said.

"Depression is closely linked to suicide, and while evidence based treatment for depression is now more available in England thanks to the NHS training over 10,000 extra clinical staff, only about 15% of those with depression and anxiety seek help.

"Effective treatment for depression exists but in general men are a minority of those seeking treatment for depression in the NHS.

"This could be because they are less willing or able to identify problems such as depression - or that they are less willing to ask for help. Mental health and psychological therapy services need to be made more 'attractive' and accessible to men."

The ONS cited a report by experts, including Ben Barr from the National Institute for Health Research, in 2012 which suggested that the UK's recent recession could be "an influencing factor in the increase in suicides".

It found that regions with greater rises in unemployment had also experienced higher rises in male suicides, the ONS said.

Meanwhile, a 2012 review by the Samaritans found middle-aged men in lower socio-economic groups were at particularly high risk, the ONS said.

Joe Ferns, Samaritans's executive director of policy, research and development, said the increase in suicide rates was "sadly not surprising" in the context of a "challenging economic environment".

He said: "The excessive risk of suicide in men at mid-life continues to be a concern.

"The rate for this group has now reached its highest level for more than 30 years. These figures cannot be ignored.“

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Losing a loved one to suicide is a tragedy and one life taken by suicide is one too many.

"Our Suicide Prevention Strategy is backed by £1.5 million funding for research and we've set a zero suicide ambition to tackle the assumption that some suicides are inevitable.

"We're also introducing the first ever waiting time standards for mental health, backed by £120 million investment. And we're taking action to improve crisis support across the country, with new standards set out in the Crisis Care Concordat and investment in liaison psychiatry."

Anyone in need of confidential support can contact the Samaritans in the UK 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90.

Additional reporting by PA

This article has been amended to clarify that the statistics revealed by the Office for National Statistics relate to deaths registered in 2013, not necessarily deaths that occurred in 2013.