How 60’s Britain Cut It’s Suicide Rate…By Accident – BrightSci

When Britain switched from coal gas to natural gas over the course of the 1960s and 70s, its suicide rate dropped by 1/3.

Wait what?

In this episode, we’re talking carbon monoxide, suicide methods that suck, and how small barriers can make a big difference.

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15 comments

  1. Makes perfect sense. Suicide is an overriding of our natural instinct to want to live. Its generally a challenge to overcome, so the willpower to actually commit suicide is not always there if its not easy.

  2. good. cleeeeeeeeeeeean coal.

  3. This is an interesting topic for a video. I’m imagining that another factor is because death by coal gas seems like it would be one of the least painful ways of suicide.

    • Though we should also account unintentional “suicides”.

      • Considering that suicide is defined as the act of taking one’s own life ‘voluntarily and intentionally’, I am not sure you can have an unintentional suicide recorded in national statistics.

        • Yes, but sometimes it is hard to define if case was or wasn’t suicide. Yes, there are letters but not always, some forms of death like hanging are most likely to be suicide. But simple truth is that police especially in old times sometimes guess the cause. And because of nature of coal gas it wasn’t hard to die by mistake. Obviously I don’t say that those cases were common, but that it should be included.

  4. A similar drop is observed when a waiting period for gun purchases is in place.

  5. Let’s read the title again: “How 60’s Britain Cut It is Suicide Rate… By Accident”… Doesn’t make sense, does it? There is a difference between “It’s” and “its”, and it stuns me how many people make that simple mistake. A foreigner tells you that.

    • Where’s Strong Bad when we need him?

      “OOOOOH, If it’s supposed be possessive, it’s just I-T-S,
      But if it’s supposed to be a contraction then it’s I-T-Apostrophe-S!
      Scalawag!”

      • Well, we do need to correct these obvious mistakes the Internet is full of, so that Strong Bad sure sounds like a good person to mockingly point them out.

    • It is a typo. They happen. No need to be such an arse about it.

      • Not really. A typo would by trying to type “its”, and typing “itd”, because “d” is next to an “s” on the keyboard. In this case, one would have to consciously shift their finger to an apostrophe, because they didn’t know – or care – about the difference between two completely different pigeons. Oh, I’m sorry, I meant “statements”, but I made a typo.

  6. My friend worked in the UK’s Nudge Unit. Their work is fascinating, as they look at how to use these kinds of small changes to have big positive impacts on society.

  7. I’d heard about this back during discussions for building suicide barriers along bridges that were popular among jumpers(something I’d initially assumed to be a waste of money). Apparently research has shown that while people might be troubled by suicidal thoughts over a long period, the actual decision to kill one’s self is most often done on impulse and longer it takes to act on that impulse, the greater the chance to have second thoughts/lose their nerve(I know there are always exceptions, but this is how the majority of cases are, and Britain’s post coal oven suicide numbers seem to support that assertion). It makes one wonder how many deaths could be prevented if gun sales were more restricted to those with suicidal thoughts in the US.

  8. Interesting; I had read about the drop in suicide rates after switching from coal, but I didn’t know about the similar situation with painkillers in the UK.

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