Parliament and Politics: Suicides among young men rise

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Indy Politics
DEATH by suicide in men under 24 and pregnancies in young teenage girls are continuing to rise, making new government health targets harder to achieve.

Figures released yesterday show increased pregnancy rates in children under 14, and in teenagers aged 14, 15 and 16 in 1990.

The rise in births outside marriage also continued. Last year they accounted for 30.2 per cent of all live births compared with 28.3 in 1990 12.8 in 1981.

Suicide in young men aged 15 to 24 has continued the increase started in the mid-1980s. In 1990 the rate was 100 per million of the population compared with 50 in 1980. While the trend in all male suicides has been upwards, the trend in all female suicides has been downwards - marking the first time the trends have moved in opposite directions since 1911.

The statistics from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) were released as Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, announced details of the Cabinet committee and working groups which will oversee progress of the White Paper Health of the Nation.

This set targets to reduce the level of pregnancies in 13- to 15-year-olds by at least 50 per cent in eight years. Pregnancy rates, published yesterday, are 1.3 per 1,000 women in under-14s, 6.6 in 14-year-olds, 21.6 in 15-year-olds and 46.4 in 16-year-olds. In 1980 the rates were 0.9, 4.3, 16 and 37.4 respectively. The government target for suicide is a reduction of at least 15 per cent by 2000.

Mrs Bottomley said yesterday that the White Paper placed health 'explicitly' on the whole government agenda. 'We are setting up special task forces to look at action needed on a number of specific fronts. We are strengthening our ability to monitor and appraise progress. We are making sure there is a proper programme of research,' she said.

The Department of Health was planning to reach wider audiences through a new Health of the Nation newsletter, the first edition of which would be published in the autumn, she said.

Alison Hadley, spokeswoman for Brook Advisory Centres, which provide contraceptive advice to single people, said the Government would have to act 'with great urgency' if the teenage pregnancy rates were to be reduced on target.

'We have to look at liaison with schools and visits from schools to local family planning services.'

Women are continuing to have babies later, with the average age 27.7 years in 1991 compared with 26.5 in 1977.