Australian Suicide Statistics, 2005 - Key Findings
On 14 March 2007, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the 2005 data on deaths by suicide in Australia. Auseinet has produced this summary in order to highlight some of the key findings. A copy of the ABS ‘Suicides’ publication (ABS catalogue no. 3309.0) is available to download.
Cautions in interpreting suicide statistics:
- The quality of suicide statistics are affected by a number of factors includinghow long it takes for coroners to process deaths that are reported as potential suicides. The ABS notes that particular issues experienced in recent years may explain at least part of the observed decline in the number of suicide deaths. Thus extreme caution must be taken when comparing trends in the number of suicides over recent years.
Number of suicide deaths:
- In 2005, there were 2,101 registered deaths from suicide compared to 2,098 in the previous year.
- An age-standardised suicide rate, which accounts for the changing age structure of the Australian population over time, allows for a more precise comparison of groups with different age structures and between time periods. In 2005 this suicide rate for males was 16.4 per 100,000 people and 4.3 per 100,000 for females. While the number of registered deaths from suicide in 2005 was 3 more than in 2004, the age standardised rate in 2005 was 1% lower than in 2004 and lower than in any single year in the previous decade. The 2005 rate was 30% lower than in 1997.
- Males were almost 4 times more likely than females to die by suicide in 2005 (1,657 compared with 444 suicide deaths, respectively).
- In 2005 the highest number of suicide deaths for males was observed in the age group 30 to 34 years (207 suicide deaths), followed by males aged 40 to 44 years (203 suicide deaths). The highest number of suicide deaths for females was in the age group 35 to 39 years (51 suicide deaths), followed by females aged 45 to 49 years (46 suicide deaths). In contrast the lowest number for males was in the 65 to 69 age group (47 suicide deaths) and for
females in the 70 to 74 age group (18 suicide deaths).
Trends in suicide deaths:
- Although comparing the number of suicide deaths over time must be done cautiously (see notes on ‘Cautions in interpreting suicide statistics’), the 2005 figure of 2,101 suicides deaths suggests a continued decline in the number of registered suicide deaths since the peak of 2,720 suicide deaths in 1997.
- This decline in the number of suicides over the past decade is seen for both males and females.
Percentage of all deaths:
- 1.6% of all deaths were due to suicide in 2005.
- The percentage of deaths due to suicide in relation to the total number of deaths from all causes differs greatly among some age groups and between males and females. In particular, suicide accounted for approximately 27% of all male deaths and 17% of all female deaths for the 20 to 24 year age group in 2005. It also accounted for 24% of all male deaths and 20% of female deaths for the 25 to 29 year age group in 2005.
Differences across the states and territories:
- Given the relatively small numbers of suicides in any one state or territory each year, a more accurate picture of differences by state and territory can be gained from pooling data over a number of years. When combined data for the years of 2001 to 2005 are examined, the highest age-standardised suicide rate is observed for the Northern Territory – this suicide rate of 24.0 per 100,000 people was more than twice the Australian average (of 11.2 per 100,000 people). The next highest suicide rates were observed for
Tasmania (15.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 people) and Queensland and South Australia (12.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people).
Suicide among Aboriginal people:
- In addition to the general issues surrounding the quality of suicide statistics (as noted earlier), the quality of data on deaths of Aboriginal people is also affected by issues of undercounting . Thus the number of recorded suicide deaths among Aboriginal people is likely to underestimate the true number of such deaths. The ABS publishes data about suicide among Aboriginal people in a publication called ‘Causes of Death’ (ABS catalogue no. 3303.0).
- The ABS only releases data on the number of deaths by suicide among Aboriginal people for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory due to. both comparatively small numbers and relatively low coverage of Aboriginal deaths in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT. In 2005, there were 88 registered deaths by suicide of Aboriginal people in the five states and territories considered compared to 83 such deaths in 2004.
- In 2005, suicide accounted for 4.3% of all Aboriginal deaths compared with 1.6% of deaths for other Australians. Thus, deaths by suicide accounted for a much higher proportion of all deaths among Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people.
- The difference between the proportion of deaths that was due to suicide among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people varies by state and territory. In 2005, the biggest difference was observed for South Australia, where 12% of deaths of Aboriginal people were due to suicide compared with 1.7% of deaths of non-Aboriginal people. In contrast, the smallest difference is seen for the Northern Territory; while 4.8% of deaths of Aboriginal people in that territory were due to suicide, a slightly smaller percentage (4.4%) of deaths
of non-Aboriginal people were due to suicide.
2. The term ‘Aboriginal’ people is used to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
3. To access the ABS Causes of Death publication go to the relevant link on the LIFE: National Suicide Prevention website at www.livingisforeveryone.com.au
This information sheet produced by the Australian Network for Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention for Mental Health, March 2007, has been updated from an earlier version (April 2006) written by Dr Adriana Vanden Heuvel. More details about sources which provide statistical information about levels and trends of suicide in Australia can be found on the LIFE: National Suicide Prevention website. This site is developed and maintained by Auseinet – www.livingisforeveryone.com.au