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Neil Bannister

Neil Bannister

Assistant Deputy Director Health Analysis,
Office for National Statistics (ONS)

I am Head of Health Analysis at Office for National Statistics. This covers a number of areas from mortality statistics through to smoking prevalence. I have worked in ONS for 12 years in a variety of areas including social surveys and economic statistics.

  • 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.