Characteristics and circumstances of rail suicides in England 2019–2021: A cluster analysis and autopsy study

Norman, Hilary; Marzano, Lisa; Fields, Bob; Brown, Sophie; MacDonald Hart, Steven and Kruger, Ian. 2024. Characteristics and circumstances of rail suicides in England 2019–2021: A cluster analysis and autopsy study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 354, pp. 397-407. ISSN 0165-0327 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Background: Around 4% of all suicide deaths in Great Britain occur on the railways. This exploratory study was designed to increase understanding of the individuals that take their lives in this way, and the circumstances of their death.

Method: Data were obtained from fatality investigation files compiled by the British Transport Police (BTP) relating to suspected suicides on the mainline railway in England from April 2019 to March 2021. Cluster analysis was carried out to identify grouped associations of characteristics and circumstances relating to rail suicide.

Results: A total of 436 files were analysed, representing 93% of all suspected railway suicides during this period. Cluster analysis identified four groups of almost equal size, distinguished principally by age, living arrangements, employment status and location of
death. The study is novel in the way it integrates individual characteristics and circumstances of death. The identified clusters may provide a multidimensional way of conceptualising suicide risk that could inform more targeted interventions at rail locations.

Limitations: A high proportion of missing data means that the findings need to be interpreted with caution. It also restricted the multivariate analysis to those categories of information for which sufficient information was available.

Conclusion: The characteristics and circumstances of suicide deaths on the railways are complex and multifaceted. The typology identified in this study may help to target preventative strategies prior to the incident as well as at different location types.

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Funding: This study was commissioned and funded by the Network Rail on behalf of the rail industry in England.

Data Access Statement:

Due to the sensitive nature of this research, supporting data is not available.


Suicide, Railway, Prevention, Cluster, Intervention

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7 March 2024Accepted
21 March 2024Published Online
June 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Mar 2024 09:22

Last Modified:

11 Jul 2024 15:33

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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