When interpreting or using suicide data it is important to remember that behind the numbers are people, families and communities impacted by suicide in Australia.
The reasons people take their own life are complex and often there is no single reason why a person attempts or dies by suicide.
Suicide data 2017 – ABS (2018)
- Suicide is a prominent public health concern. Over a five year period from 2013 to 2017, the average number of suicide deaths per year was 2,918.
- In 2017, preliminary data showed a total of 3,128 deaths by suicide (age-specific suicide rate 12.7 per 100,000), rising from 2,866 deaths in 2016 (11.8 per 100,000).
- The rate of suicide among males is more than three times greater than that for females. In 2017, the age-specific rate for males 19.2 per 100,000 (2,348 deaths by suicide) and female 6.3 per 100,000 (780 deaths by suicide).
- In 2017, preliminary data showed an average of 8.57 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
- Data shows that the largest increase was in the 45 to 54 aged male group when comparing 2017 to 2016 data, with 424 deaths (age-specific rate 27.2 per 100,000) in 2017 compared to 361 deaths (age-specific rate 23.3 per 100,000).
- All states except for Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia recorded an increase in deaths due to suicide
- Queensland recorded the largest increase in suicide deaths (804 in 2017 compared with 674 in 2016).
- Australian Capital Territory recorded the largest percentage increase (107%). 58 people died by suicide in ACT which is an increase on the 28 recorded in 2016.
- New South Wales recorded an age-standardised suicide rate 10.9 per 100,000, which is the second lowest state-specific rate of all states and territories. Despite this, 880 people died by suicide in NSW, which was an increase on the 805 recorded in 2016.
- Of all causes of death, 1.9% was attributed to suicide in 2017. The proportion of total deaths attributed to suicide was higher in males (2.8%) than females (1.0%).
- Suicide rates increased across many age groups:
- For males: The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2017 was observed in the 85+ age group (32.8 per 100,000). This rate was higher than the age-specific suicide rate observed in all other age groups, with the next highest age-specific suicide rates being in the 45-49, 40-44 and 30-34 year age groups (32.1, 30.5 and 26.5 per 100,000 respectively). Those of younger age was associated with the lowest age-specific rates (0-14 year age group: 0.7 per 100,000; 15-19 year age group: 13.9 per 100,000).
- For females: The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2017 was observed in the 45-49 age group (11.2 per 100,000), followed by the 50-54, 55-59, and 40-44 age groups (10.4, 8.9 and 8.8 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for females was observed in the 0-14 age group (0.4 per 100,000) followed by those aged 85 and over (5.2 per 100,000). Using the ‘Years of Potential Life Lost’ (YPLL) measure, suicide was estimated to account for 81,546 potential years lost in males, 26,579 years in females, and 108,035 potential years of life lost for all persons in 2017.
- 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 2017 was 12.7 per 100,000.
- For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent in NSW, QLD, SA, WA and NT there were 165 deaths due to suicide (125 male, 40 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 approximately twice the rate of non-Indigenous (12.7 per 100,000).
Suicide and age
- Overall, the age-specific suicide rate in 2017 was highest in men aged 85 or above (32.8 per 100,000), which has been the age group with the highest rate since 2011.
- With the exception of those aged over 85, in 2017 age-specific suicide rates were highest in men in the aged groups 40-49.
- For females, 2017 data showed that the highest age-specific suicide rate was observed in the 45-49 age group (11.2 per 100,000). The age group with the highest age-specific rates tends to vary in females (with the 45-49 age group the third highest in 2016).
- Age-specific suicide rates are lowest in males aged under 20 years of age. The lowest suicide rate in females is among those aged under 15 years. As with highest rates in females, the age with the lowest rate tends to fluctuate, with the second lowest rate in those aged 85 and over in 2017 (which was the seventh lowest in 2016).
- For children (0-14 years), death by suicide is rare in Australia (0.5 per 100,000). Age-specific suicide rates in 2017 are low for both males (0.7 per 100,000) and females (0.4 per 100,000).
Children and youth suicide data
- In 2017, males under the age of 15 had the lowest suicide rate (0.7 per 100,000) of all males, with 16 deaths. Males aged 15-19 years had the second lowest rate (13.9 per 100,000) with 106 suicide deaths. There were 195 males aged 20-24 years (22.2 per 100,000) who died by suicide in 2017.
- In 2017, females aged 0-14 years had the lowest suicide rate (0.4 per 100,000), with 8 deaths. There were also 50 females aged 15-19 years (6.9 per 100,000), and 53 females aged 20 to 24 years (6.3 per 100,000) who died by suicide.
- Considering all causes of death, suicide accounted for 2.0% of deaths among 0-14 year old males, 36.4% of deaths among 15-19 year old males and 38.5% of deaths among 20-24 year old males in 2017.
- Considering all causes of death, suicide accounted for 1.2% of deaths among 0-14 year old females, 32.9% of deaths among 15-19 year old females and 30.6% of deaths among 20-24 year old females in 2017.
- In 2017, the age-specific rate for males aged 15-19 years was 13.9 per 100,000.
- During the mid-1980s, suicide rates for 15-19 year old males rose rapidly and peaked at 21.0 per 100,000 in 1988. During the 1990s, suicide rates for 15-19 year old males fluctuated around 17-19 per 100,000 for this group with a peak of 19.0 per 100,000 in 1991. These rates have gradually declined since the 1990s, having fluctuated between 10-15 per 100,000 within this age group for the past 10 years.
- In 2017, the age-specific rate for females aged 15-19 years was 6.9 per 100,000.
- For females, the suicide rates for females aged 15-19 also fluctuate, with a high in 2012 (8.3 per 100,000) and were lowest in 2008 (3.6 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 (2013-2017), the state based age-standardised suicide rates were highest in the Northern Territory (19.3 per 100,000) and Tasmania (15.2 per 100,000), followed by Queensland (15.0 per 100,000), Western Australia (14.7 per 100,000) and South Australia (13.1 per 100,000).
- Age-standardised rates were lowest in Victoria (10.1 per 100,000), New South Wales (10.5 per 100,000), and the Australian Capital Territory (10.5 per 100,000) between 2013 and 2017.
- According to hospital data, females are more likely to deliberately injure themselves than males. In the 2009-2010 financial year, 62.4% 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 2009-2010, 71.6% of those who were hospitalised due to self-harm were aged between 15 and 44 years. The age-standardised rates of hospitalised suicide attempts was highest in females (150.6 per 100,000), compared to males (89.5 per 100,000).
- Hospitalisations for intentional self-harm were highest in the 25-44 years age group for both males (49.7% of all attempts) and females (40.5% of all attempts)
- From 2009 to 2010, there were 27,588 cases of hospitalised care due to self-harm; a rate of 119.6 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 (4.1%) and children under 14 years (2.3%) than other age groups in 2009-2010. 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 suicide.
- 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 reduced.
- 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 in 2017 (24.9 per 100,000) is approximately twice as high as non-indigenous people (12.0 per 100,000).
The following downloadable document contains additional information* including:
- National suicide data
- Suicide and age
- Suicide and gender
- Children and youth suicide data
- Suicide by State and Territory
- Attempted suicide
- Groups at risk of suicide
- Notes about using statistics
Data on this webpage has been updated to reflect the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Catalogue 3303.0 Cause of Death Australia, 2017 released in September 2018.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2000). Suicides, Australia, 1921 to 1998. Catalogue No. 3309.0.Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed December 4, 2012
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). Suicides, Australia, 2010. Catalogue No. 3309.0 Belconnen, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed March 24, 2014
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.
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.
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.