Facts and stats about suicide in Australia


The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 data on Wednesday the 28th of September 2016, 11.30am AEST. This page has been updated to reflect the most up to date information. 

IMPORTANT:
The following data may impact vulnerable people. For information about Crisis Support services, or adding help-seeking information when reporting on suicide in the media, see the 'Promote help-seeking information' and 'Adding helplines' section of the Mindframe website.

 


Media IconIt’s important that the media are able to present the most accurate information about suicide to the community. Provided below is a summary of facts and statistics about suicide that media professionals can use within a story to provide context.

Please also visit our Story sources and contacts page for organisations that can provide further detailed information and statistics about suicide and suicide prevention.

Data on this webpage has been updated to reflect the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Catalogue 3303.0 Cause of Death Australia, 2015 released in September 20161 and the ABS Catalogue 3309.0 Suicides, Australia, 2010  (statistical summary of deaths due to suicide registered in Australia between 2001 and 2010) released in July 20122. A briefing is provided below.

 

suicide graphsSuicide graphs
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) Catalogue No. 3303.0
Causes of Death, Australia, 2015.

Download


ABS Causes of Death data summary 2015 from Hunter Institute of Mental Health

Australian State and Territory suicide data 2015 from Hunter Institute of Mental Health

 

Brief Snapshot of suicide in Australia1


  • Suicide is a prominent public health concern. Over a five year period from 2011 to 2015, the average number of suicide deaths per year was 2,687.
  • In 2015, preliminary data showed a total of 3,027 deaths by suicide (12.7 per 100,000), 2,292 males (19.4 per 100,000) and 735 females (6.2 per 100,000). There were 2,864 deaths in 2014 (12.2 per 100,000).
  • In 2015, preliminary data showed an average of 8.3 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
  • For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, there were 152 deaths due to suicide (110 male, 42 female), which was the 5th most common cause of death. For NSW, Qld, SA, WA and NT, the standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (25.5 per 100,000) was twice the rate of non-Indigenous (12.5 per 100,000).  For further facts and statistics relating to the Indigenous population, visit the priority population facts and stats page.
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate for males in 2015 was observed in the 85+ age group (39.3 per 100,000) with 68 deaths. This rate was considerably higher than the age-specific suicide rate observed in all other age groups, with the next highest age-specific suicide rate being in the 45-49, 40-44 and 50-54 year age groups (31.5, 30.6 and 30.5 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for males was in the 0-14 year age group (0.3 per 100,000) and the 15-19 year age group (11.8 per 100,000).
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate for females in 2015 was observed in the 45-49 age group with 82 deaths (10.4 per 100,000), followed by the 50-54, 35-39 and 55-59 age groups (9.4, 8.6 and 8.6 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for females was observed in the 0-14 age group with 8 deaths (0.4 per 100,000) followed by the 65-69 age group (4.5 per 100,000) and the 60-64 and 75-79 age groups (both 5.4 per 100,000 respectively).
  • Suicide rates in Australia peaked in 1963 (17.5 per 100,000), declining to 11.3 per 100,000 in 1984, and climbing back to 14.6 in 1997. Rates have been lower than this since that year. The age-standardised suicide rate for persons in 2015 was 12.7 per 100,000.
  • Consistently over the past 10 years, the number of suicide deaths was approximately 3 times higher in males than females. In 2015, 75.6% of people who died by suicide were male.
  • Of all causes of death, 1.9% was attributed to suicide in 2015. The proportion of total deaths attributed to suicide was higher in males (2.8%) than females (0.9%).

Facts and Statistics1


 Suicide and age
  • Overall, the age-specific suicide rate in 2015 was highest in men aged 85 or above (39.3 per 100,000), which has been the highest since 2011.
  • For males, with the exception of those aged over 85, in 2015 age-specific suicide rates were highest among those of middle age (i.e. 40-54).
  • For females, 2015 data showed that the highest age-specific suicide rate was observed in the 45-49 year age group (10.4 per 100,000). The age group with the highest age-specific rates tends to vary in females, with the 45-49 age group the fourth highest in 2014.
  • Age-specific suicide rates are lowest in those aged under 20 years of age.
  • For children (0-14 years), death by suicide is rare in Australia (0.3 per 100,000). Age-specific suicide rates are low for both males (0.3 per 100,000) and females (0.4 per 100,000). 

The table below provides a comparison of trends in suicide between 19973 (the most recent peak) and 20151.

Age groups

Sex

1997

2015

No. of deaths

Age-specific rate
(/100,000)

No. of deaths

Age-specific rate
(/100,000)

15-19

M

122

18.6

89

11.8

F

33

5.3

56

7.8

20-24

M

295

42.8

192

22.5

F

60

9.0

54

6.7

25-29

M

294

40.5

207

23.4

F

59

8.1

60

6.9

30-34

M

246

34.6

216

24.6

F

56

7.8

59

6.8

35-39

M

215

29.2

214

27.2

F

64

8.6

68

8.6

40-44

M

216

31.5

251

30.6

F

58

8.4

70

8.4

45-49

M

153

23.5

244

31.5

F

45

7.0

82

10.4

50-54

M

141

25.3

235

30.5

F

51

9.5

74

9.4

55-59

M

98

22.5

155

21.7

F

32

7.6

63

8.6

60-64

M

80

22.1

116

18.3

F

24

6.6

35

5.4

56-59

M

77

22.8

108

18.9

F

25

7.1

26

4.5

70-74

M

69

24.5

78

18.6

F

22

6.7

28

6.4

75-79

M

131

31.6

61

20.2

F

41

7.0

18

5.4

80-84

M

-

-

52

26.2

F

-

-

17

6.7

85+

M

-

-

68

39.3

F

-

-

17

5.7

Total

M

2,146*

23.3**

2,292

19.4

F

577*

6.2**

735

6.2

Note: * represents the sum of all deaths including ages not stated.
** represents the age-specific rate of all deaths including ages not stated.

 

 Suicide and gender1
  • Suicide is approximately three times higher in males, which is consistent across every state and territory of Australia, and also statistics reported in other Western countries.
  • The ratio of male to female suicides rose from 2:1 in the 1960s to over 4:1 in the 1990s. Since the year 2000, the ratio of male to female suicides has been approximately 3:1.
  • For males, in 2015 the most common mechanism of suicide was hanging (58.8%), followed by poisoning by drugs (10.3%), firearms (7.6%) and then poisoning by other agents (7.4%).
  • For females, in 2015 hanging (48.7%) was also the most common method, followed by poisoning by drugs (26.3%).
  • In 2015, suicide represented 2.8% of all male deaths and 0.9% of all female deaths.

The proportion of deaths attributed to suicide varies greatly among age groups1 with a much greater percentage of the total causes of death attributed to suicide in younger age groups. This variation reflects considerably lower number of deaths in younger people, and the greater proportion of deaths by other causes in older people.

Age groups

Suicide as a percentage of all deaths

Males

Females

15-19

28.6

33.9

20-24

37.9

31.4

25-29

33.8

24.9

30-34

27.9

17.8

35-39

23.6

13.2

40-44

18.4

9.1

45-49

13.5

7.3

50-54

8.7

4.4

55-59

4.2

2.8

60-64

2.4

1.2

65-69

1.6

0.6

70-74

1.0

0.5

75-79

.06

0.2

80-84

0.4

0.2

85+

0.3

0.0

Total

2.8

0.9

 

Suicide by state and territory1
  • Combining suicide data over a five-year period provides a more reliable picture of differences across the states and territories due to the relatively small number of suicides in some states and territories in any one year.
  • In recent years (2011-2015), the state based age-standardised suicide rates were highest in the Northern Territory (18.7 per 100,000) and Tasmania (14.2 per 100,000), followed by Queensland (14.1 per 100,000), Western Australia (13.9 per 100,000) and South Australia (12.8 per 100,000).
  • Age-standarised rates were lowest in New South Wales (9.7 per 100,000), Victoria (9.7 per 100,000) and the Australian Capital Territory (9.3 per 100,000). 
Attempted suicide5
  • According to hospitals data, females are more likely to deliberately injure themselves than males. In the 2008-2009 financial year, 62% of those who were hospitalised due to self-harm were female. 
  • For males and females, the highest rate of deliberate self-harm occurred for those aged from their teens to middle age. In 2008-2009, 73% of those who were hospitalised due to self-harm were aged between 15 and 44 years, with the highest rates observed in females aged 25-44 years (6,809 per 100,000 population). The same age group also had the highest hospitalisation rate in males (4,791 per 100,000 population). 
  • From 2008 to 2009, there were 26,935 cases of hospitalised care due to self-harm; a rate of 117.9 cases per 100,000 population. It is important to recognise, however, not all people who are hospitalised due to self-harm may have intended to die by suicide. 
  • Rates of hospitalised self-harm were much lower among both older men and women 65+ years  (4%) and children under 14 years (1.9%) than other age groups in 2008-2009. However, the average length of stay in hospital due to self-harm was highest among older age groups i.e. 65+ years.

Groups at risk of suicide 
  • People with a previous history of attempted suicide are at greatest risk of suicide5.
  • Mental disorders such as major depression, psychotic illnesses and eating disorders are associated with an increased risk of suicide especially after discharge from hospital or when treatment has been reduced6, 7.
  • People with alcohol or drug abuse problems have a higher risk of dying by suicide than the general population.
  • Males are around three times more likely to die by suicide than females.
  • The suicide rate for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander People (25.0 per 100,000) is twice as high as non-indigenous people (12.5 per 100,000).
 Youth suicide1, 2, 3 
  • In 2015, 89 males aged 15-19 years (11.8 per 100,000) and 192 males aged 20-24 years (22.5 per 100,000) died by suicide.
  • Males aged 15-19 years (11.8 per 100,000) were the second lowest of all male age-specific suicide rates.
  • In the same year, 56 females aged 15-19 years (7.8 per 100,000), and 54 females aged 20 to 24 years (6.7 per 100,000) died by suicide.
  • Considering all causes of death, suicide accounted for 28.6% of deaths among 15-19 year old males and 37.9% of deaths among 20-24 year old males in 2015. The corresponding percentages for females in both of these age groups are 33.9% and 31.4% respectively.
  • During the mid-1980s, suicide rates for 15-19 year old males rose rapidly and peaked at 21.0 per 100,000 in 1988. Over the following decade, rates fluctuated around 17-19 per 100,000 for this group and stood at 18.4 per 100,000 in 1997.
  • For males, suicide rates in those aged 15-19 years have gradually declined since the 1990s, with a peak of 19.0 per 100,000 in 1991. The suicide rate has fluctuated around 12 per 100,000 within this age group for the past 10 years.
  • For females, the suicide rates for females aged 159-19 show that rates peaked in 1997 (9.0 per 100,000) and were lowest in 2003 (3.8 per 100,000). Preliminary data for 2015 was 7.8 per 100,000.

     Media IconNote: about using statistics


      1. Caution should be exercised in reporting and interpreting suicide and self-harm information.
      2. In the past, the reliability of suicide statistics is affected by a number of factors including differences in state-specific reporting methods across Australia, and delays in the post-mortem processing of possible suicides by coroners.
      3. The ABS has instituted a significant quality assurance process to improve the quality of coding of deaths data. ABS advises that care should be taken in comparing suicide data since 2013 with all suicide data from 2006 - 2012, as the quality improvement review process on this data has been finalised.
      4. As the release of the 2015 preliminary data was earlier than previous years, the data shown here represents 2013 (first revision) and both 2014 and 2015 preliminary data. The first revision of 2014 and final revision of 2013 data will be available in early 2017.
      5. Due to the relatively small numbers of suicides in some states and territories, even one or two deaths can have a significant impact on standardised suicide rates. Thus comparisons across Australia must be done cautiously.
      6. Data on suicides can be reported in different ways, including: the number of people who died by suicide; the age-standardised suicide rate (e.g. seven per 100,000 people, this allows for the comparison of groups with different age structures and sizes); and as a percentage of deaths from all causes which were due to suicide.
      7. The comparison of international suicide statistics can be very difficult due to differences in procedures for coronial reporting and classifying deaths, definitions, time periods, and the level of undercounting.



      References

      [1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016). Causes of Death, Australia, 2015. Catalogue No. 3303.0. Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed September 28, 2016 from:http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/47E19CA15036B04BCA2577570014668B?opendocument 

      [2] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). Suicides, Australia, 2010. Catalogue No. 3309.0. Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed March 24, 2014 from: http://abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/mf/3309.0/

      [3] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2000). Suicides, Australia, 1921 to 1998. Catalogue No. 3309.0. Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed December 4, 2012 from http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/B677BAE5E1AC97E5CA2568BD0012ECBC/$File/33090_1921%20to%201998.pdf

      [4] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2013). Causes of Death, Australia, 2011. Catalogue No. 3303.0. Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed March 25, 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3303.0Chapter222011

      [5] McKenna, K., & Harrison, J. E. (2012). Hospital separations due to injury and poisoning, Australia 2008-09. Injury research and statistics series. No. 65. Cat. INJCAT 141. Canberra, ACT: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Accessed November 23, 2012 from http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422893

      [6] Connor, K. R., Langley, J., Tomaszewski, K. J., & Conwell, Y. (2003). Injury hospitalization and risks for subsequent self-injury and suicide: A national study from New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7), 1128-1131.

      [7] Martin, G., Swannell, S., Harrison, J., Hazell, P., & Taylor, A. (2010). The Australian National Epidemiological Study of Self-Injury (ANESSI). Brisbane, QLD: Centre for Suicide Prevention Studies. Accessed November 23, 2012 from http://www.suicidepreventionstudies.org/uploads/ANESSI%20Report%20Publication.pdf


       

      This page was last updated, 28 September 2016.