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Small reduction in deaths by suicide but more needs to be done

Small reduction in deaths by suicide but more needs to be done

Data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that 3,048 Australians died by suicide in 2018, which is 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people. This represents a fall of around 2.5% when compared to the data reported from 2017 (3,128 deaths by suicide).

Males accounted for 76.2% of deaths by suicide, while females accounted for 23.8%. More than 8 deaths by suicide occur in Australia each day with 6.4 per day for men and 2 per day for women. These figures indicate that men are still three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Suicide accounted for 1.9% of all deaths in 2018 and was the leading cause of death among people 15 to 44 years of age. It also accounted for the highest number of years of life lost.

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said, “The data indicates that in some sections of society the messages around supporting one another are beginning to get through. This shows the encouraging outcomes that can be achieved when a collaborative approach to suicide prevention is taken by Government and the wider community.”

All deaths by suicide in 2018 had comorbidities mentioned as associated factors with an average of 6 comorbidities for each suicide death. Mood disorders, including depression, were the most commonly mentioned comorbidity, present in 43.9% of suicide deaths, followed by problems related to substance use (29.4%), which includes abuse of alcohol and drugs. Other symptoms and signs involving emotional state (including suicide ideation) were the third most common comorbidity, mentioned in 21.7% of suicide deaths.

“While information about comorbidities as it relates to suicide is incredibly useful, we need to dig deeper to find out the root causes of mood disorders, substance use and emotional state. We are seeing the symptoms, but we need to explore what the causes are,” said Ms Murray.

Suicide Prevention Australia believes that the key to a reduction in suicides in the coming decade will be preventing or preparing better for the next wave of societal stressors.

Turning Points: Imagine a world without suicide, released earlier this month by Suicide Prevention Australia examines the emerging trends in housing, finance, employment and relationships and their likely effect on Australians in the coming decade.

The better we can proactively predict what economic and social changes are around the corner, the better we can prepare Australians ahead of time and prevent suicide rates increasing. These solutions need to go beyond the traditional health and human services sector, encompassing finance and other service industries.

The white paper found that the burden of mortgage debt, the isolating nature of the gig economy and the loss of strong family relationships could increase suicidality in a person.

“The time to take action is now. Over 10 million Australian adults are estimated to know someone who has died by suicide and 1 in 2 young people are impacted by suicide by the time they turn 25. We’ve all got to do more as government, business and suicide prevention leaders to reduce the number of lives impacted by suicide in Australia,” said Ms Murray.

Key Figures for 2018:

  • 3,046 people died by suicide
  • 12.1 per 100,000 died by suicide
  • Around 8 deaths per day by suicide in Australia
  • Males accounted for 76.2% of deaths by suicide, while females accounted for 23.8%
  • Males are still 3 times more likely to die by suicide than females
  • Suicide accounts for 1.9% of all deaths in Australia
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate reported for males was observed in the 85+ age-group at 32.9 per 100,000. This cohort accounted for 2.7% of all male suicide deaths
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate reported for females was observed in the 40-44 age-group at 9.4 per 100,000
  • All suicides had comorbidities mentioned as associated factors, the highest being mood disorders, substance use and signs and symptoms involving emotional state
  • 169 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide in 2018; 129 were male and 40 female
  • The Northern Territory had the highest rate of all the States and Territories with 19.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Suicide accounted for the largest number of Years of Potential Life Lost with 80,319 years lost for males and 25,249 years for females.