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Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 18:26 GMT


More young men dying

Drug use is partly to blame for a rise in deaths

There has been a sharp rise in the number of young men dying over the last decade, according to figures released by the Office of National Statistics.

ONS figures also reveal that death rates among second generation Irish migrants living in England and Wales are 20% higher than for the rest of the population.

The rising death rate among young men - which bucks the general trend - can be partly explained by an increase in suicides, drug-related deaths and deaths from Aids and HIV-related illnesses.

The ONS figures show:

  • Deaths among men aged 25-29 increased from 778 per million between 1985-87 to 879 per million between 1994-96;
  • Over the same period deaths among men aged 30-34 the rate rose from 957 per million to 1,030 per million.

There was also a very slight rise in the number of women aged 25-29 who died over the same period, but the number of women aged 20-24 who died fell.

A quarter of the 10,016 male deaths in the 20-24 and the 25-39 age groups in England and Wales in 1994-96 were suicides.

Suicide was the second biggest cause of death - after accidents which account for 66% of deaths - for men aged 20 to 30.

Aids and other infectious diseases like hepatitis accounted for 4% of deaths in men aged 25-29 and 8% in men aged 30-34.

The death rates attributable to suicides and infectious diseases among women in the same age groups were just half those for men.

However, Samaritans say young women are more likely to attempt suicide.

Drug-related deaths were harder to compute because they are categorised under different headings depending on whether they were due to "chronic dependency" or an overdose.

Mental disorders, which include some drug- and alcohol-related deaths, accounted for 6% of deaths in men aged 20-24 and 5% in those aged 25-29.

Deaths from accidents, cancers and heart disease have fallen over the last 10 years.

But they have been offset by the rise in deaths from suicides, infectious diseases and mental disorders.

Immense concern

[ image: Combination therapy has cut the threat of Aids]
Combination therapy has cut the threat of Aids
An ONS spokesman said the rise in deaths among young men was significant.

He said: "We are still talking about a relatively small number of deaths, but the reason why this is important is that each death represents the loss of a large number of years of potential life."

A spokeswoman for The Samaritans said: "The suicide rate among young men and women has been of immense concern to us for some time.

"In 1996 there were two suicides a day among people aged 15-24 and the rate has tripled since the mid-1980s.

"What our research shows is that it is not that more men than women attempt suicide but that men choose more violent means which are more likely to result in death.

"Men are also much less likely to talk through their problems."

Andrew Ridley, director of operations at Aids charity the Terence Higgins Trust, said the introduction of combination therapy had cut deaths from Aids dramatically.

"It is still not as low as we would like it but this shows the benefits of early testing for HIV.

"Where we have a problem is that we have an increasing number of people who are not coming forward until they are ill and are therefore finding they are HIV positive and have Aids at the same time, when their immune system is probably too damaged to benefit from treatment."

Irish ill health

The ONS figures show that, compared to the average figures for England and Wales, second generation Irish women suffer 60% more lung, ovarian and cervical cancers, and Irish men suffer 50% more prostate cancer.

Death rates among original Irish migrants and their children were also higher than those who remained in Ireland.

Statisticians said that, even taking into account socio-economic factors, the much higher cancer rates were "a mystery".

Author Seeromanie Harding said: "Poor health may be the result of the persisting effect of parental socio-economic disadvantage and these studies demonstrate that health differences may not disappear rapidly following migration and can persist across several generations."

She said the high incidence of lung cancer could be because more second generation migrants smoke.

The Health Education Authority says there is a link between poverty and smoking and that children with parents who smoke are more likely to take up the habit than those with non-smoking parents.

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