THE number of suicides in Hampshire has risen by more than 12 per cent in the last two years.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 101 people in Hampshire took their own life last year, compared to 88 people in 2016 and 98 people in 2017.

This is a 12.87 per cent increase in two years.

In Southampton, the number of suicides has risen with 24 recorded deaths in 2017 to 27 deaths in 2018 - the same figure as recorded in 2016.

In the last year, figures have double in Winchester with eight recorded suicides in 2017, and 16 recorded in 2018.

There has also been a rise in the number of suicides in Eastleigh with eight people taking their own life in 2017 and 12 people in 2018, and in the New Forest figures have risen since 2016 with eight recorded deaths to 12 recorded deaths in both 2017 and 2018.

However, in Fareham figures have dropped from nine in 2017 to eight in 2018, and in Gosport numbers are down from 11 to six.

In Test Valley, ten suicides were recorded in 2017 but only six in 2018.

Nationally, the number of suicides has risen for the first time since 2013, with a "significant increase" among men.

A total of 6,507 suicides were registered in the UK last year, up from 5,821 in 2017.

Three-quarters of the suicides (4,903) in 2018 were men, at a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000.

The ONS said this represented a "significant increase from the rate in 2017" when 4,382 male suicides were recorded.

It added that the "exact reasons" for the rise are unknown but changes made in the last year to the way coroners record such deaths may be a factor.

In July 2018 the standard of proof used by coroners to determine whether a death was a suicide was lowered.

Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: "It is extremely worrying that, for the first time in five years, the suicide rate in the UK has increased, with 686 more deaths than in 2017.

"There has also been a significant increase in the suicide rate in young men since 2017. Significantly, more men aged 45-49 took their own lives also, and middle-aged men remain the group at greatest risk of suicide overall."

The figures show the highest rate of suicide by age in 2018 was among 45 to 49-year-olds, a rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 males.

Ms Sutherland added: "Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities. Whilst the overall rise has only been seen this year - and we hope it is not the start of a longer-term trend - it's crucial to have a better understanding of why there has been such an increase.

"We know that suicide is not inevitable; it is preventable, and encouraging steps have been made to prevent suicide, but we need to look at suicide as a serious public health issue."

The Samaritans also said the rising rate of suicide in young people is a "particular concern".