Australia: Suicides Since 1921

Excerpt from Australian Social Trends 2000. Published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In 1921 there were 621 registered suicides, where many more men (510) took their lives than women (111). The age standardised suicide rate was 14.0 deaths per 100,000 of the standard population. By 1998 the number of deaths from suicide had increased to 2,683 (2,150 males and 533 females) and the age standardised rate was 14.3 per 100,000.

Although the rates were similar in 1921 and 1998, there were a number of fluctuations during the intervening decades. The suicide rate rose during the depression years to peak at 16.8 per 100,000 in 1930. In this period, high suicide rates conincided with high levels of unemployment, particularly among males. In contrast, rates declined during World War II, following below 8 per 100,000 people in both 1943 and 1944, the lowest recorded in Australia. The declining suicide rate during World War II was consistent with trends observed in many countries. However, rates for the war years may have been underestimed because suicides and any other deaths of troops overseas were not included in Australian death statistics.

After the war, suicide rates began to rise gradually and again peaked in 1963 at 17.5 per 100,000. This rise and subsequent fall may be attributed in part to changes in the availability of hypnotic and sedative drugs, from unrestricted availability (following changes made to the National Health Act in 1960), to more restricted availability (following an amendment to the Act in 1967).

After 1968, the standardised suicide rate remained fairly stable at approximately 13 per 100,000 until the mid 1990’s. In 1997 it increased to 14.6, the highest recorded since 1971. The 1998 rate of 14.3 per 100,000 reflects a drop of 40 deaths from 1997.

Examination of data on deaths from suicide allows the identification of some of the main characteristics of those who commit suicide, such as age patterns, sex differentials, marital status and geographical location.

Read more on Age and Sex Differentials here.

Read more on Marital Status here.

Read more on Geographical Location here.

Read about Associated Causes of Suicide here.

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