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, 2017 data on Wednesday 26 September 2018. This page has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information.

Brief snapshot

  • There were 3,128 deaths due to suicide in 2017 with an age-specific rate of 12.7 per 100,000. This equates to an average of 8.57 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 165 deaths due to suicide (125 male, 40 female), which was the fifth most common cause of death.
  • Suicide rates increased across many age groups. Data shows that the largest increase was in the 45 to 55 aged male group. In 2017 there were 599 deaths (age-specific rate 18.8 per 100,000) compared to 511 deaths (age-specific rate 16.2 per 100,000) in 2016.
  • Rates for men and women are included as part of the data provided by the ABS and in 2017 2,348 males and 780 females died by suicide. This equates to a rate of 19.2 per 100,000 for men and 6.3 per 100,000 for women.
  • For the first time the ABS has provided data relating to comorbidities, with 80% of suicides having comorbidities mentioned as contributing factors. Mood disorders (including depression) was the most common factor associated, reporting in 43% of all suicides.
  • While rates are still lower than our last national peak in 1997, we have seen an increase in suicide rates and numbers of deaths, over the past five years.

For a full snapshot of the ABS Causes of Death data for 2017, visit Mindframe.

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

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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