Key facts

Suicide is a prominent public health concern in Australia, and globally.

Data and trends relating to suicide in Australia can change over time. It is important to have accurate and up-to-date information about suicide to inform planning, policy and practice.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its Causes of Death, Australia, 2016 data on Wednesday 27 September 2017. This page has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information.

Brief snapshot

  • There were 3,027 deaths due to suicide in 2015 at a rate of 12.7 per 100,000. This equates to over 8 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
  • About 76% of those who died by suicide were male, at a ratio of more than 3:1 when compared to female deaths. There were 2,292 male deaths (19.4 per 100,000) and 735 female deaths (6.2 per 100,000) recorded in 2015. 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are approximately twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous people in Australia. 
  • In 2015 there were 152 deaths due to suicide (110 male, 42 female) at a rate of 25.5 per 100,000 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, making suicide the 5th most common cause of death for this population. 
  • While age-specific suicide rates are lower than the most recent peak in 1997 (14.6 per 100,000), rates have increased between 2013 (10.9 per 100,000), 2014 (12.2 per 100,000) and 2015 (12.7 per 100,000).  
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate for males in 2015 was observed in the 85+ age group (39.3 per 100,000) with 68 deaths. This rate was considerably higher than the age-specific suicide rate observed in all other age groups, with the next highest age-specific suicide rate being in the 45-49, 40-44 and 50-54 year age groups (31.5, 30.6 and 30.5 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for males was in the 0-14 year age group (0.3 per 100,000) and the 15-19 year age group (11.8 per 100,000).
  • The highest age-specific suicide rate for females in 2015 was observed in the 45-49 age group with 82 deaths (10.4 per 100,000), followed by the 50-54, 35-39 and 55-59 age groups (9.4, 8.6 and 8.6 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for females was observed in the 0-14 age group with 8 deaths (0.4 per 100,000) followed by the 65-69 age group (4.5 per 100,000) and the 60-64 and 75-79 age groups (both 5.4 per 100,000 respectively).

Suicide by state and territory

  • Combining suicide data over a five-year period provides a more reliable picture of differences across the states and territories due to the relatively small number of suicides in some states and territories in any one year.
  • In recent years (2011-2015), the state based age-standardised suicide rates were highest in the Northern Territory (18.7 per 100,000) and Tasmania (14.2 per 100,000), followed by Queensland (14.1 per 100,000), Western Australia (13.9 per 100,000) and South Australia (12.8 per 100,000).
  • Age-standarised rates were lowest in New South Wales (9.7 per 100,000), Victoria (9.7 per 100,000) and the Australian Capital Territory (9.3 per 100,000). 

The reasons that people take their own life are very complex. There is no single reason why a person attempts or dies by suicide.

Australia has a diverse population regionally, but also culturally and demographically, There are three priority populations that have been identified in national policy due to their increased risk of suicidal behaviour, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people.

It should be acknowledged that some priority populations are not intrinsically more at risk of suicidal behaviour, but rather these individuals may experience greater rates of discrimination, isolation and other forms of social exclusion which can impact on suicidal thinking and behaviour.

Others may be at increased risk of suicide due to their experiences (in childhood or adulthood), their current access to economic and social resources, their current health status and their previous exposure to suicidal behaviour. These populations may include:

  • People who are socioeconomically disadvantaged
  • Adults and young people in (or recently released from) custodial settings
  • People who have a previous history of suicide attempt/s
  • People bereaved by suicide
  • People living in rural and remote areas
  • People living with mental illness and/or drug and alcohol problems 
  • People who experience trauma in childhood 
  •  Children and young people in out-of-home care 
  •  People living with chronic pain or illness.

While men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, females generally have higher rates of suicidal thinking, planning and attempts. 

When considering the full spectrum of suicidal thinking and behaviours, both men and women are affected across the age span, and interventions may need to be considered and targeted differently.

Related program

Cqq Qt Ba Viaap Mbn

Mindframe National Media Initiative

Mindframe encourages the responsible, accurate and sensitive representation of mental illness and suicide in the Australian mass media by collaborating with media and various sectors that work with the media. 

Related research

Mindframe Application038

Views and attitudes regarding the reporting/communication of suicide

Mindframe have developed practical resources for media professionals that consist of evidence-based recommendations on how to safely communicate on suicide. However, limited research has explored how the evidence that underlie these recommendations are perceived. This research aimed to gather information about media and public relations professionals’ attitudes towards the reporting of suicide; and to determine any association with their personal exposure to suicide; and their attitude towards suicide in general.

Back to Understanding Suicide