When exploring suicide data it is important to remember that behind the numbers are people, families and communities. Please carefully consider your needs when reading information on this page. If you need assistance, please contact a crisis service.
Data on this webpage is taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Catalogue 3303.0 Cause of Death Australia, 2016 released in September 2017, and the ABS Catalogue 3309.0 Suicides, Australia, 2010, released in July 2012, with analysis and summary provided by Mindframe.
Overview of Suicide in Australia
- Suicide is a prominent public health concern. Over a five year period from 2012 to 2016, the average number of suicide deaths per year was 2,795.
- In 2016, preliminary data showed a total of 2,866 deaths by suicide (age-specific suicide rate 11.8 per 100,000), 2,151 males (17.9 per 100,000) and 715 females (5.9 per 100,000). There were 3,027 deaths in 2015 (12.7 per 100,000).
- In 2016, preliminary data showed an average of 7.85 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
- For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent in NSW, QLD, SA, WA and NT there were 162 deaths due to suicide (119 male, 43 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 (23.8 per 100,000) was approximately twice the rate of non-Indigenous (11.4 per 100,000).
- Suicide rates reduced across many age groups, including a moderate reduction in suicide rates for males in the high risk age groups of 35-49 years.
- There were modest increases from 2015 to 2016 in suicide rates for other age groups including males 15-24 years and females 20-34 years.
- There were decreases in rates and numbers across most states and territories in 2016 when compared to 2015. The biggest reduction in number was in Queensland, which has contributed to the overall decrease in the number/rate of Australian suicides in 2016.
- For males: The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2016 was observed in the 85+ age group (34.0 per 100,000) with 61 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 rates being in the 30-34, 40-44 and 35-39 year age groups (27.5, 27.2 and 24.8 per 100,000 respectively). Those of younger age were associated with the lowest age-specific rates (0-14 year age group: 0.4per 100,000; 15-19 year age group: 13.4 per 100,000).
- For females: The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2016 was observed in the 50-54 age group with 82 deaths (10.4 per 100,000), followed by the 40-44, 45-49 and 30-34 age groups (8.5, 8.3 and 8.3 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for females was observed in the 0-14 age group with 7 deaths (0.3 per 100,000) followed by those aged between 65-69 and then 15-19 age group (4.1 and 5.0 100,000 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 since 1997. The age-specific suicide rate for persons in 2016 was 11.8 per 100,000.
- Consistently over the past 10 years, the number of suicide deaths was approximately 3 times higher in males than females. In 2016, 75.1% of people who died by suicide were male.
- Of all causes of death, 1.81% was attributed to suicide in 2016. The proportion of total deaths attributed to suicide was higher in males (2.62%) than females (0.93%).
- The suicide rate for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander People in 2016 (23.8 per 100,000) is approximately twice as high as non-indigenous people (11.4 per 100,000).
- Using the ‘Years of Potential Life Lost’ (YPLL) measure of premature mortality, suicide was estimated to account for 74,610 potential years lost in males, 25,002 years in females, and 99,586 potential years of life lost for all persons in 2016.
Suicide and age
- Overall, the age-specific suicide rate in 2016 was highest in men aged 85 or above (34.0 per 100,000), which has been the age group with the highest rate since 2011.
- With the exception of those aged over 85, in 2016 age-specific suicide rates were highest among middle age men (i.e.30-34 and 40-54 age groups).
- For females, 2016 data showed that the highest age-specific suicide rate was observed in the 50-54 year age group (10.4 per 100,000). The age group with the highest age-specific rates tends to vary in females, with the 50-54 age group the second highest in 2015.
- Age-specific suicide rates are lowest in those aged under 20 years of age across both genders. The 65-69 year age group are also low in females.
- For children (0-14 years), death by suicide is rare in Australia (0.3 per 100,000). Age-specific suicide rates in 2016 are low for both males (0.4 per 100,000) and females (0.3 per 100,000).
Suicide and gender
- Suicide is approximately three times higher in males, which is consistent across every state and territory of Australia.
- 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 2016 the most common mechanism of suicide was hanging (57.8%), followed by poisoning by drugs (9.8%) and then firearms (8.0%).
- For females, in 2016 hanging (47.4%) was also the most common method, followed by poisoning by drugs (28.1%).
- In 2016, suicide represented 2.6% of all male deaths and 0.9% of all female deaths.
- In 2016, males under the age of 15 had the lowest suicide rate (0.4 per 100,000) of all males, with nine reported suicide deaths in this age group. Males aged 15-19 years had the second lowest rate (13.4 per 100,000) with 101 suicide deaths. There were 202 males aged 20-24 years (23.3 per 100,000) who died by suicide in 2016.
- In 2016, females aged 0-14 years had the lowest suicide rate (0.3 per 100,000) with seven recorded deaths. There were also 36 females aged 15-19 years (5.0 per 100,000), and 64 females aged 20 to 24 years (7.7 per 100,000) who died by suicide.
- Considering all causes of death, suicide accounted for 1.1% of deaths among 0-14 year old males, 35.7% of deaths among 15-19 year old males and 38.0% of deaths among 20-24 year old males in 2016. The corresponding percentages for females in each of these age groups are 1.2%, 28.3% and 32.5% 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 10-15 per 100,000 within this age group for the past 10 years.
- For females, the suicide rates for females aged 15-19 show that rates peaked in 1997 (9.0 per 100,000) and were lowest in 2003 (3.8 per 100,000). Preliminary data for 2016 was 5.0 per 100,000.
Suicide by state and territory
- 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 (2012-2016), the state based age-standardised suicide rates were highest in the Northern Territory (19.0 per 100,000) and Tasmania (14.8 per 100,000), followed by Queensland (14.4 per 100,000), Western Australia (14.4 per 100,000) and South Australia (12.9 per 100,000).
- Age-standarised rates were lowest in New South Wales (10.1 per 100,000), Victoria (9.9 per 100,000) and the Australian Capital Territory (8.9 per 100,000) between 2012 and 2016.
- 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.
Note about using statistics
- 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. This process involves updating preliminary statistics for two subsequent years following the initial release, to include ongoing open coronial cases.
- This is the second year that the preliminary data has been made available approximately six months earlier than previous years. The data shown here represents 2014 (first revision) and both 2015 and 2016 preliminary data. The first revision of 2015 and final revision of 2014 data will be available in early 2018.
- ABS advises that care should be taken when comparing suicide data since 2014 with all revised suicide data from 2006-2013, as the quality improvement review process on this data has been finalised.
- 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.