We would like to acknowledge the information provided by ABS (Causes of Death, Australia, 2020 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au) the National LGBTI Health Alliance (https://www.lgbtiqhealth.org.au/statistics) and Life in Mind (https://lifeinmindaustralia.com.au/about-suicide/suicide-data)
Please note the data notated here will be update as new data comes to hand.
When referring to or talking about statistics, it is really important to remember that every number represents a person, a loved one, a community member. Research undertaken by COAG Health Council identified that 89% of people know someone who had attempted and 85% knew of someone who had died by suicide, so we need to acknowledge and consider the lived experience of each and every person we meet…
The reasons people take their own life are complex and often there is no single reason why a person attempts or dies by suicide. We therefore recognise stressors and life events and the impact these have on people.
General suicide data 2020 – ABS (released 2021)
- There were 3,139 deaths due to suicide (2,384 males and 755 females). This compares to 3,318 suicides in 2019 (2,502 males and 816 females).
- The age-standardised suicide rate was 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people, a 6.2% decrease from 2019.
- For females, the suicide rate was the lowest since 2013 and for males the lowest since 2016.
- The median age at death for people who died by suicide was 43.5.
- Suicide was the 15th leading cause of death compared to the 13th in 2019.
- Over 90% of people who died by suicide had risk factors identified including depression, substance use and abuse, and issues in spousal relationships.
- Over the last 10 years, number of deaths has increased by 33%
- In 2018 there were 3,038 deaths by suicide (12.7 per 100,000)
- In 2017 there were 3,128 deaths by suicide (12.7 per 100,000).
- Research suggests about 135 people are exposed to each suicide death
Suicide rates for males and females 2020
2,384 males died by suicide.
- Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death.
- Their median age at death was 43.6 years.
- Three quarters of people who died by suicide were male.
- The suicide rate for males decreased by 6.1% from 2019.
- The suicide rate for males increased between 2011 and 2020 from 16.2 to 18.6 deaths per 100,000.
755 females died by suicide.
- Suicide was the 22nd leading cause of death.
- Their median age at death was 43.1 years.
- The suicide rate for females decreased by 7.9% from 2019.
- The suicide rate for females increased between 2011 and 2020 from 5.1 to 5.8 deaths per 100,000.
Suicide by age 2020
- Young and middle aged people are more likely to die by suicide than those in older age cohorts.
- 83.6 percent of people who died by suicide are aged under 65 years.
- People who died by suicide had a median age of 43.5 years compared to 81.7 years for all deaths.
- Over one-third of deaths in 15-24 year olds are due to suicide.
- The age distribution of suicide is similar for males and females.
Suicide by age and sex 2020
Males aged over 85 years:
- Had the highest age-specific suicide rate.
- Accounted for the smallest proportion (3.1%) of suicides of males.
Males aged between 40 – 54 years:
- Have the highest age-specific suicide rates of those aged under 85 years.
- Accounted for over one quarter (26.7%) of suicides of males.
Females aged 45-49 years:
- Had the highest female age-specific suicide rate.
- Accounted for the highest proportion (10.9%) of suicides of females.
Suicides of children 2020
- There were 99 suicides of children.
- Suicide remained the leading cause of death of children in Australia.
- Males had a suicide rate of 2.9 per 100,000 children (61 deaths).
- Females had a suicide rate of 1.9 per 100,000 children (38 deaths).
- Over 73% of children who died by suicide were aged between 15 and 17 years.
- Suicides rates differed by jurisdiction of usual residence. Children in the Northern Territory had the highest suicide rate.
Risk factors for suicide 2020
- Over 90% of people who died by suicide had at least one risk factor reported.
- Psychosocial risk factors were the most commonly reported risk factor.
- Both mental and behavioural disorders and psychosocial risk factors were present in over two-thirds of deaths of people who died by suicide.
- People who died by suicide had an average of 3-4 risk factors mentioned.
Suicide risk factors by age 2020
- Mood disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor to be mentioned in all age groups (except those aged 5-24 years).
- Younger people were more likely to have issues with substance use (both acute toxicity and chronic use) mentioned as a risk factor.
- For those aged 85 years and over, limitation of activities due to illness and disability were the most common associated cause.
- Older people had a higher proportion of chronic health conditions such as cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes as a risk factor than younger people.
- Those aged 25-64 years were more likely to have problems related to un/employment mentioned as a risk factor than other ages.
Suicide risk factors for males 2020
- Mood disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor for all males.
- For those aged under 44 years presence of alcohol and drugs (including intoxication) was the most common risk factor.
- Issues in spousal relationships was the third most common risk factor for males compared to seventh for females.
- Males across all ages had a history of suicide ideation or self-harm.
Suicide risk factors for females 2020
- Mood disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor, being captured as a risk factor in over 40% of suicides across all age groups.
- Over 40% of those aged 5-24 years had a history of self-harm as a risk factor.
- Death of a family member or friend was a risk factor across all ages with the youngest and oldest age groups having the highest proportion.
- Personality disorders was the 10th most common risk factor for females, compared to the 29th for males.
COVID-19 as a risk factor for suicide
For the 99 people who died by suicide with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor:
- 3.2% of all suicides had issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic noted as a risk factor.
- Had on average 5 risk factors.
- Had on average 3 psychosocial risk factors.
The table below shows the frequency of co-occurring risk factors alongside the frequency of issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Categories are not mutually exclusive and an individual may appear in multiple categories.
For the 99 people who died by suicide with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor:
- Almost 60% of people had both mood disorders (including depression) and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor.
- Over 50% of people had both problems related to un/employment and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor.
- There were 25 people who had both problems related to the social environment including social isolation and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor.
States and Territories 2020
Decreases in numbers of suicide deaths were recorded for all states except NT and ACT
- NSW, VIC, QLD account for almost three-quarters of registered suicides
- NT highest suicide death rate – 20.4 per 100,000 people.
- Deaths by suicide – NSW 876, VIC 694, QLD 759, SA 234, WA 381, Tas 87, NT 51, ACT 57
Suicide rates in Australia peaked in 1963 (17.5 per 100,000), dropped to 11.3 per 100,000 in 1984, and back to 14.6 per 100,000 in 1997. Rates have been lower since 1997. The suicide rate for persons in 2018 was 12.2 per 100,000.
Children and youth historical information
- Mid-1980’s suicide rates for 15-19 yrs males rose and peaked at 21 per 100,000 in 1988.
- During 1990’s suicide rates for 15-19 yrs males (17-19 per 100,000) with a peak in 1991.
- Rates declined since 1990’s.
- Suicide rates for 15-19 yrs females also fluctuate, with a peak in 2012 (8.3 per 100,000) and lowest in 2008 (3.6 per 100,000).
Comorbidity and suicide
- Where suicide is listed as primary cause of death, a comorbidity is presence of one or more diseases or disorders as noted by coroner on death certificate.
- Mood disorders (including depression) reported in 43.9% suicides.
- Anxiety and stress related disorders in 17.6% suicides
- Alcohol and other drugs found in blood of 21.5% all suicide, largest factor increase since 2017 (14.9%).
Worldwide – World Health Organisation
- Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, one every 40 seconds
- Suicide 1.4% all deaths worldwide, 18th leading cause of death
- Annual global age standardized suicide rate 10.5 per 100,000 – Australia now 12.6
- In Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, highest rates suicide for both men and women
- Eastern Mediterranean Region and Central Asia have lowest suicide rates
- Nearly 30% all suicides occur in India and China (Befrienders Worldwide, 2019)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People 2020
- 197 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide across the five jurisdictions.
- Their median age was 31.3 years.
- Suicide was the 5th leading cause of death.
- Those living in Western Australia had the highest age-standardised suicide rate.
To enable comparison of suicide rates over time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, age-standardised death rates for males, females and all persons are presented in the graph below. Upper and lower bounds (confidence intervals) are included to show the potential variability of the annual suicide rates and can be used in measuring statistical significance in annual rate change.
- The age-standardised suicide rate was 27.9 deaths per 100,000 persons.
- The suicide rate for males increased between 2011 and 2020 from 31.7 to 42.9 deaths per 100,000.
- The suicide rate for females has remained relatively stable over time.
- WA consistently recorded highest death rate over last 10 years
- Leading cause of death 15-44 yrs (81.9%), 3 time higher than non-indigenous people
- Male suicide rate peaks between 35-44 yrs (74.1 per 100,000)
- Suicide was leading cause of death ATSI children between 2016-2020
LGBTI in 2021
- 11% of LGBTQA+ young people aged 16 to 17 had attempted suicide in the past 12 months
- 25.6% of LGBTQA+ young people aged 16 to 17 had attempted suicide in their lifetime
- 16% of LGBTI young people aged 16 to 27 reported that they had attempted suicide
- 27.8% of bisexual people aged 18 and over reported that they had attempted suicide
- 5.2% of LGBTI people aged 18 and over reported having attempted suicide in the past 12 months (13.7% of trans men, 10.9% of trans women, 6.8% of non-binary participants, 4.2% of cisgender women and 3.3% of cisgender men), and 30.3% of LGBTI people aged 18 and over reported having attempted suicide at some point during their lives
- 48.1% of transgender and gender diverse people aged 14 to 25 reported that they had attempted suicide in their lifetime
- 35% of transgender people aged 18 and over reported that they had attempted suicide in their lifetime
- 19% of people with an intersex variation aged 16 and over reported that they had attempted suicide on the basis of issues related to their intersex status
- 28% of gender questioning young people between 14 and 21 years reported that they had attempted suicide