Covid-19 is almost certainly killing more people than suicide

16 September 2021
What was claimed

Suicide is killing more people than Covid-19 in September 2021.

Our verdict

This is almost certainly untrue. We do not yet have exact numbers for either cause of death, but the evidence we have on 16 September 2021 suggests that Covid deaths are probably several times higher.

Suicide is killing more people than Coronavirus. How about we all stock up on smiling at strangers instead?

A post claiming that more people are dying of suicide than the coronavirus is being shared on Facebook.

When the Facebook post was shared, this was almost certainly untrue.

Where does the claim come from?

The post appears to be a screenshot of a tweet using the same words that was widely shared on 7 March 2020, in the very early stages of the pandemic in the UK.

At that time, we now know that nine people in total had so far died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates in England and Wales (and in fact across the whole UK). We also now know that there were an average of about 16 daily deaths from suicide during the first quarter of 2020 in England and Wales.

At the time then, it was true that more people were dying from suicide than from Covid-19.

It was still a very misleading tweet, however, because the picture was about to change substantially. Within a week there began to be dozens, then hundreds, then more than a thousand deaths with Covid in England and Wales each day by the start of April—many of these among people who would have already caught the disease when the tweet was posted.

These daily Covid death figures are far higher than the average daily rate of deaths from suicide at the time, or in any recent period.

What’s happening now?

At the time of writing, we don’t yet know how many deaths from suicide or Covid were occurring on 13 September 2021, when this Facebook post appeared.

In England and Wales, deaths from suicide require an inquest to establish the cause of death, which means they often take a long time to be registered. This is why we never know how many deaths from suicide are occurring at the moment.

We have checked misleading claims about the recent suicide numbers many times.

There is also a short delay before we know exactly how many Covid deaths are occurring each day, because of the time it takes for the death certificates to be completed and registered. However, we can already see that around 100 deaths with Covid mentioned on the death certificate were occurring in England and Wales each day at the end of August.

The average number of suicides per day in England and Wales has been about 15 since the beginning of January 2015, when the dataset begins. No month in that period has had an average of 18 or more suicides per day.

It therefore seems extremely unlikely that more people are dying from suicide than from the coronavirus at the moment, even though we don’t yet have the data to confirm this.

Contacting Samaritans

The Samaritans’ helpline is available at all hours and can be contacted free on 116 123, or you can email jo@samaritans.org.

Correction 17 September 2021

A sentence was amended to clarify that the delay in death registration applies to England and Wales.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because this claim is not supported by evidence, and is almost certainly untrue.

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