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There has been a strong decrease in the age-standardised suicide rate in Australia over the 10 years from 2001 to 2010. This decrease is most clearly evident among males between 15 and 34 years of age. Much smaller changes in suicide rates were recorded for males in other age groups and females in all age groups over this time.
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for all Australians between 15 and 34 years of age, despite decreases in the suicide rate over the past decade.
There are clear differences in suicide rates across states and territories, with Tasmania and the Northern Territory recording particularly high suicide rates in comparison to other jurisdictions. There are also consistent differences in suicide rates for urban and rural areas, with Capital City Statistical Divisions recording lower suicide rates than ‘rest of state’ areas.
Suicide rates for Australian residents based on country of birth show that people born in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America have similar rates of suicide (between 9.7 and 13.5 deaths per 100,000 people). However, suicide rates are comparatively lower for people born in Asia, Africa and the Middle East (ranging from 5.3 to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 people).
Suicide rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are approximately twice those of non-Indigenous Australians. Suicide rates are particularly high among younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 45 and over, suicide rates align more closely with those recorded for the non-Indigenous population.
Information on multiple causes of death highlights that the most common associated causes linked with suicide deaths are Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99).
The quality of Australian deaths information is high by world standards. It has national coverage, has medical and coronial certification, has legislative requirements for reporting and has high quality processes to manage the data. Despite this, there remain considerable challenges in improving the quality of suicide data, particularly in relation to timeliness, consistency of process across jurisdictions and improving the identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at the time of death. There are many stakeholders involved in the collection of causes of death information, and collaborative work is underway to address these complex quality issues.
Mortality data does not cover all of the information required to better understand factors that contribute to suicide deaths. Information about education, employment, family circumstances, and in some cases domestic violence or incarceration, would all assist in understanding significant risk factors for suicide.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) or Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years) (1800 551 800).