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

  • Suicide is a prominent public health concern. Over a five year period from 2012 to 2016, the average number of suicide deaths per year was 2,795.
  • There were 2,866 deaths due to suicide in 2016 with an age-specific rate of 11.8 per 100,000. This equates to an average of 7.9 deaths by suicide in Australia each day.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had a rate of suicide approximately twice that of non-Indigenous people in Australia. 
  • For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent in NSW, QLD, SA, WA and NT there were 162 deaths due to suicide (119 male, 43 female), which was the fifth most common cause of death.
  • Suicide rates reduced across many age groups, including a moderate reduction in suicide rates for males in the high risk age groups of 35-49 years.
  • There were modest increases from 2015 to 2016 in suicide rates for other age groups including males 15-24 years and females 20-34 years. 
  • For males: The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2016 was observed in the 85+ age group (34.0 per 100,000) with 61 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 rates being in the 30-34, 40-44 and 35-39 year age groups (27.5, 27.2 and 24.8 per 100,000 respectively). Those of younger age were associated with the lowest age-specific rates (0-14 year age group: 0.4 per 100,000; 15-19 year age group: 13.4 per 100,000).
  • For females: The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2016 was observed in the 50-54 age group with 82 deaths (10.4 per 100,000), followed by the 40-44, 45-49 and 30-34 age groups (8.5, 8.3 and 8.3 per 100,000 respectively). The lowest age-specific suicide rate for females was observed in the 0-14 age group with 7 deaths (0.3 per 100,000) followed by those aged between 65-69  and then 15-19 age group (4.1 and 5.0 100,000 respectively).

The reasons 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 three 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

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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

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Views and attitudes regarding the reporting/communication of suicide

Mindframe has 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.

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