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Dr Ben Windsor-Shellard

Dr Ben Windsor-Shellard

Head of Lifestyle and Risk Factors Analysis,
Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Ben joined Office for National Statistics (ONS) in July 2015 and is the Head of Lifestyle and Risk Factors Analysis. The research themes in Ben’s team include suicide, drug-related deaths, alcohol deaths, deaths of homeless people, and smoking prevalence. Ben is particularly interested in using data linkage to provide novel insights on risk factors, and is a member of England’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group and Wales’s National Advisory Group for Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention. Prior to joining ONS, Ben undertook a program of research at Cardiff University which explored the correlates and consequences of attitudinal ambivalence.

  • Prevention of student suicides is a high priority in Government health policy, however, as an area of research, there is little robust evidence.
  • In response, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) linked two complex data sources: death registrations records and higher education student enrolment records from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). The linkage allowed ONS to provide the first robust rates of suicide among university students that could be compared to rates in the general population.
  • One thing we found was that the risk of suicide in the general population was higher than the risk of suicide among students, contrary to what was being published in the media at the time. The linkage also allowed an investigation of how certain factors changed suicide risk e.g., being part-time.
  • Following the research, the Department for Education announced plans for a University Mental Health Charter, backed by the Government and led by the sector. The talk will end with an overview on future research plans.