Data and statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases the Causes of Death data each year in Australia.

The ABS data release provides in-depth data and statistical information around suicide related deaths across the country.

Mindframe conducts the annual analysis due to a long-standing relationship with the ABS and a legacy of more than 20 years in compiling statistical summaries which examine, distill and contextualise data for the public and stakeholders.

Statistics referencing suicide, provide context and are drawn upon in policy and decision making, media and communications and raising community awareness.

Mindframe's work with the ABS each year is essential to decipher the complex figures so they are interpreted correctly and are reported to the public safely.

Key data

  • 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), 2,348 males (19.2 per 100,000) and 780 females (6.3 per 100,000). There were 2,866 deaths in 2016 (11.8 per 100,000) and 3,065 deaths in 2015 (12.9 per 100,000)
  • 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).
  • There were increases in rates and numbers some states and territories, with the exception of Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia in 2017 when compared to 2016.
  • Consistently over the past 10 years, the number of suicide deaths was approximately 3 times higher in males than females.
  • In 2017, 75.1% of people who died by suicide were male.
  • ABS Causes of Death (2017) reported comorbidity for the first time, with approximately 80% of suicides having comorbidities mentioned as associated factors.
  • Mood disorders (including depression) was the most common comorbid factor associated, reported in 43% of all suicides.
  • Drug and alcohol use disorders were second highest, mentioned in 29.5%.
  • Anxiety, the most common mental illness was mentioned in 17.5%.

Interpreting the ABS Causes of Death data

Term Definition

Rate

Refers to the number of deaths by suicide registered during the reference year. This is often expresses as per 100,000 deaths.

Proportion

Proportion refers to the percent of all the deaths due to suicide.

Leading cause of death

Leading cause of death is where suicide is ranked according to other causes of death.

What is a trend?

A trend is defined as a pattern of change in a period of time. In our analysis we look at five year trends.

Mindframe works to support media and communications professionals as an important source of information to help ensure that the quality of reporting and portrayal of suicide is safe and accurate.

The ABS statistics contain complex and highly specific figures and media are encouraged to use safe and responsible language when reporting or communicating on these.

Consider the following when communicating about the ABS Causes of Death data to the public:

  • remember that there are people and families behind the numbers
  • make reference to and allow for the validation of grief and loss
  • keep material within context
  • include help-seeking services and information when reporting.

There are still areas that require support in terms of suicide prevention. Allowing the sector to come together and renew its commitment to suicide prevention as individuals, as services, as communities and as governments across Australia will enable the data to be used accurately and safely.

When reporting, interpreting and sharing suicide information or data the suicide prevention and mental health sector are asked to be cautious in their messaging, language and how statistics can be used in context.

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