Facts and stats about suicide in Australia


The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its Causes of Death, Australia, 2012 data on Tuesday 25th March 2014. This page has been updated to reflect the most up to date information.


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, 2012 released 25 March 20141 and the ABS Catalogue 3309.0 Suicides, Australia, 2010  (statistical summary of deaths due to suicide registered in Australia between 2001 and 2010) released 24 July 20122. A briefing is provided below.

  

Brief Snapshot of suicide in Australia3


  • Suicide is a prominent public health concern. Over the past five years, the average number of suicide deaths per year is 2,415.
  • In 2012, 1,901 males (16.8 per 100,000) and 634 females (5.6 per 100,000) died by suicide, a total of 2,535 deaths (11.2 per 100,000), which equates to an average of 6.9 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
  • For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, the relative age standardised suicide rate is 2.5 times higher for males and 3.4 times higher for females than for the corresponding non-Indigenous population. 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 2012 was observed in the 85+ age group (37.6 per 100,000). 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 80-84 year age group (28.1 per 100,000) and the 45-49 year age group (26.9 per 100,000). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for males was in the 15-19 year age group (9.3 per 100,000) and the 0-14 year age group (0.3 per 100,000). 
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate for females in 2012 was observed in the 80-84 age group (9.5 per 100,000), closely followed by the 50-54 age group (9.0 per 100,000) and the 15-19 age group (8.3 per 100,000). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for females was observed in the 65-69 age group (4.1 per 100,000) and the 0-14 age group (0.4 per 100,000).
  • 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 2012 was 11.2 per 100,000. 
  • In 2012, approximately 75% of people who died by suicide were males and 25% were females.
  • Suicide accounted for 1.7% of death from all causes in 2012. In males 2.5% of all deaths were attributed to suicide, while the rate or females was 0.9%. 

  

suicide graphsSuicide graphs
Australian Bureau of Statistics Catalogue 3303.0
Causes of Death 2012

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Facts and Statistics4


 Suicide and age
  • With the exception of those aged over 85, there has been a trend towards men in their middle years (i.e. 30-49) having the highest rates of suicide.
  • In 2012, the peak age group for suicide was recorded in men aged 85 or above (37.6 per 100,000).
  • From 1980 onwards, there has not been any one age group of females that has consitently had a higher rate of suicide than other age groups.
  • According to official data, child suicide (5-15 years' old) is a rare event in Australia. Based on 5 year aggregate scores from 2008 to 2012, age-standardised suicide rates were low in both males (0.4 per 100,000) and females (0.4 per 100,000).  

The table below provides a comparison of trends in suicide between 19975 (the most recent peak) and 20126.

 

Age groups

Sex

1997

2012

No. of deaths

Age standardised rate
(/100,000)

No. of deaths

Age standardised rate
(/100,000)

15-19

M

122

18.6

70 

 9.3

F

33

5.3

 59

 8.3

20-24

M

295

42.8

 144

 17.4

F

60

9.0

 51

 6.4

25-29

M

294

40.5

 168

 19.6

F

59

8.1

 41

 4.9

30-34

M

246

34.6

 180

 22.6

F

56

7.8

 52

 6.6

35-39

M

215

29.2

 196

 25.3

F

64

8.6

 64

 8.2

40-44

M

216

31.5

 204

 25.2

F

58

8.4

 69

 8.4

45-49

M

153

23.5

 204

 26.9

F

45

7.0

 48

 6.2

50-54

M

141

25.3

 181

 24.0

F

51

9.5

 69

 9.0

55-59

M

98

22.5

 139

 20.6

F

32

7.6

 44

 6.4

60-64

M

80

22.1

 107

 17.6

F

24

6.6

 38

 6.2

56-59

M

77

22.8

 78

 15.3

F

25

7.1

 21

 4.1

70-74

M

69

24.5

 69

 18.6

F

22

6.7

 19

 4.9

75-79

M

131

31.6

 45

 16.9

F

41

7.0

 15

 4.9

80-84

M

-

-

 54

 28.1

F

-

-

 24

 9.5

85+

M

-

-

 56

 37.6

F

-

-

 12

 4.4

Total

M

2,146*

23.3**

 1,901*

16.8**

F

577*

6.2**

 634*

5.6**

Note: * represents the sum of all deaths including ages not stated.
** represents the standardised rate of all deaths including ages not stated.

 

 Suicide and gender7
  • Suicide is much more common among males than females in every state and territory of Australia. This is consistent with trends observed 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. Throughout the early 2000s, the ratio of male to female suicides has been somewhat below 4:1, and stood at 3.0:1 in 2012.
  • In 2012, 56.9% of male suicide deaths were by hanging, followed by 10.3% due to poisoning by drugs and then 9% due to poisoning by other agents.
  • In 2012, hanging was the most common method of suicide used by females, constituting 47% of all female suicide deaths. The second most common cause of suicide death was poisoning by drugs (27.1% of suicide deaths).
  • In 2012, suicide represented 2.5% of all male deaths and 0.9% of all female deaths.
  • Suicide rates for men born outside Australia are slightly lower than for Australian-born men, whereas corresponding rates for women are very similar.

The ratio of deaths by suicide to the total number of deaths from all causes differs greatly among age groups8 as shown in the table below:

Age groups

Suicide as a percentage of all deaths

Males

Females

15-19

 21.9

 32.6

20-24

 28.7

 25.2

25-29

 26.5

 18.8

30-34

 27.5

 15.9

35-39

 23.1

 14.1

40-44

 16.6

 9.2

45-49

 12.5

 4.7

50-54

 7.4

 4.4

55-59

 4.1

 2.1

60-64

 2.3

 1.3

65-69

 1.3

 0.6

70-74

 0.9

 0.4

75-79

 0.5

 0.2

80-84

 0.4

 0.2

85+

 0.3

 -

Total

 2.5

0.9

 

  

Suicide by state and territory9
  • 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 (2008-2012), the highest state based standardised suicide rates where in the Northern Territory (18.1 per 100,000) and Tasmania (14.1 per 100,000), followed by Western Australia (13.5 per 100,000), Queensland (13.0 per 100,000) and South Australia (11.8 per 100,000). In contrast, Victoria (9.7 per 100,000), the Australian Captial Territory (9.1 per 100,000) and New South Wales (8.9 per 100,000) had the lowest standardised rates of suicide.  
Attempted suicide10
  • 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 suicide11.
  • 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 reduced12,13.
  • People with alcohol or drug abuse problems have a higher risk of dying by suicide than the general population.
  • Males are around 3.3 times more likely to die by suicide than females. 
  • Young Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander males (15-19 years) are 4.4 times more likely to die by suicide than are other young Australian males. Similarly, young Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander females (15-19 years) are 5.9 times more likely to die by suicide than are other young females7.   
 Youth suicide14,15,16
  • In 2012, 70 males aged 15-19 years and 144 males aged 20-24 years died by suicide. In the same year, 59 females aged 15-19 years, and 51 females aged 20 to 24 years died by suicide.
  • Considering all causes of death, suicide accounted for 21.9% of deaths among 15-19 year old males and 28.7% of deaths among 20-24 year old males in 2012. The corresponding percentages for females in both of these age groups are 32.6% and 25.2% 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. 
  • Since 1997, suicide rates among 15-19 year old males have shown a pattern where they are gradually decreasing. There was an increase in rates to 11.3 per 100,000 in 2007 after the ABS revised its original estimates following their quality improvement processes, however this number has decreased to 9.3 per 100,000 in 2012.
  • For females aged 15-19 years, the suicide rate in 2012 was 8.3 per 100,000, slightly higher than previous years. 
  • Males aged 20-24 have shown considerable decreases in the age-standardised suicide rates since the 1997 peak, with 17.4 per 100,000 in the 2012 preliminary data.
  • Suicide rates for females aged 20-24 show that rates peaked in 1997 (9.0 per 100,000) and were lowest in 2003 (3.8 per 100,000). Preliminary data for 2012 was 6.4 per 100,000; a slight decrease from the 7.2 per 100,000 observed in 2011. 

 Media IconA note about using statistics


  • Caution should be exercised in reporting and interpreting suicide and self-harm information.
  • 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. 
  • 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 2012 suicide data with all suicide data from 2006 - 2011, as these data have been subject to a quality improvement review process.
  • In order to further improve the accuracy of the data on suicide deaths, in 2012, the ABS  has continued its new approach of revising the preliminary Causes of Death data. The ABS currently release the preliminary results each year, which are subject to revision for a following two years to account for any additional deaths attributed to suicide that were undergoing coronial investigations upon the initial release of the preliminary data. Consequently, in this year's release, data for 2011 had its first yearly revision, with data from 2010 subject to its second and final revision. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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. (2014). Causes of Death, Australia, 2012. Catalogue No. 3303.0. Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed March 25, 2014 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3303.0main+features100042012

[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. (2014). Op. Cit.

[4] Ibid.

[5] 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

[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Op. Cit

[7] 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

[8] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Op. Cit

[9] Ibid.

[10] 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

[11] 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.

[12] 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

[13] Canadian Mental Health Association, ONTARIO. (n.d.). The relationship between suicide and mental health. Accessed November 29, 2012 from http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/about_mental_health.asp?cID=7610&Viewmode=print

[14] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). Op. Cit.

[15] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Op. Cit.

[16] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2000). Op. Cit.