We don’t know how many suicides there have been since Omicron arrived in the UK

10 January 2022
What was claimed

Since Omicron was first detected on 27 November there have been seven deaths from it, with an average age of 83.

Our verdict

There were 7 deaths in England from the Omicron variant up to 16 December 2021. The average age of Covid-19 deaths in general is 83—we don’t know what it was for these Omicron deaths.

What was claimed

Between 27 November to now there have been 239 deaths by suicide and the average age of those who died was between 25 and 44.

Our verdict

We don’t know exactly how many people died by suicide in the month long period since 27 November.

A post on Facebook makes the claim: “Since ‘Omnicron’ [sic] first detected on 27th November: 7 deaths. Average age 83. 27th November to now: 239 deaths by SUICIDE. Average age between 25 & 44. Perspective.”

The post seems to be a screenshot of a tweet that has since been deleted but other tweets making the same or similar claims remain live.

We don’t know when exactly the original claim was made, but the other tweets that remain online were posted on 20 and 22 December. As such we’ll assume the original poster was posting around then too when he refers to figures being up until “now”. The screenshot that has been widely shared on Facebook was posted on 23 December.

There had been seven deaths from the Omicron variant in England as of 16 December. But by the time this post appeared online, the figure had increased.  Figures released on 20 December 2021 show there’d been 14 deaths in England up to 18 December.

There is no data currently available for the ages of those people. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the median age of both those whose deaths involved Covid-19 and those whose deaths were due to Covid-19 was 83. However, this data only covers the period until the week ending 2 October 2020, more than a year before the Omicron variant was identified in the UK. The mean age was slightly lower, at just over 80 for both deaths involving and due to Covid-19.

The figure for suicides between 27 November and 23 December 2021 is not yet known. In another example of this claim, the Twitter user who posted it claimed they got the figure by taking the number of suicides registered in 2020, dividing that by 365 to get an average daily figure, then multiplying that by the number of days in the period Omicron had been present in the UK. 

The screenshots they use are from the Samaritans website, which in turn was quoting the ONS. It is correct that 4,912 suicides were registered in England in 2020. Importantly, as Samaritans and the ONS specify, this is how many suicides were registered in 2020, not how many occured. Deaths by suicide are always investigated by the coroner which usually results in a delay between death and registration of just under six months.

The latest provisional figures we have for suicides in England is for July to September 2021, before the Omicron variant arrived in the UK in November 2021. And around two thirds of those deaths didn’t occur in 2021, because of delays caused by inquests.

As for age, there isn’t evidence that the “average age” of someone who dies from suicide is between 25 and 44, as the post claims. In 2020, people aged 45 to 49 in England and Wales had the highest age-specific suicide rate. In England, over a third of 2020 registered suicide deaths were in those aged 25 to 44.

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