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released: 28 Jul 2009

A review of suicide statistics in Australia is a detailed report on the statistical processes used to track national suicide rates. Suicide is a matter of considerable public interest and policy significance so reliable statistical information on suicide occurrence is important.This report examines in detail the current methodologies used to track suicide rates, identifying issues with the process of suicide reporting and the extent of, and reason for, any under-enumeration of suicide. Revised estimates are provided and the report provides advice for the future statistical monitoring of suicide and self harm in Australia. This report provides a unique insight into the limitations of current data on suicide rates.

ISSN 1444-3791; ISBN 978 1 74024 911 9; Cat. no. INJCAT 121; 114pp.; Internet only

Full publication

Publication table of contents

  • Preliminary material (131KB PDF)
    • Title and verso pages
    • Contents
    • Acknowledgments
    • Abbreviations
    • Executive summary
      • Investigation of recent suicide data
      • Future statistics on suicide
  • Body section
    • 1 Introduction (59KB PDF)
      • 1.1 Overview
      • 1.2 Background
      • 1.3 Note on terms
      • 1.4 Structure of the report
    • Part A-Background
    • 2 Suicide statistics in Australia (90KB PDF)
      • 2.1 Number of suicide deaths recorded by year
      • 2.2 Trends in suicide rates
      • 2.3 Methods of suicide
      • 2.4 Summary
    • 3 Production of suicide statistics (99KB PDF)
      • 3.1 Overview
      • 3.2 Coronial processes
        • 3.2.1 Reportable deaths
        • 3.2.2 Opening a case
        • 3.2.3 Case closure and certification
      • 3.3 NCIS processes
        • 3.3.1 Overview
        • 3.3.2 Coding and classification
      • 3.4 ABS processes
    • 4 Potential sources of error (70KB PDF)
      • 4.1 Before the coroner system
      • 4.2 Coroner system
        • 4.2.1 Time taken to reach decisions
        • 4.2.2 The way decisions are recorded
        • 4.2.3 Criteria for deciding 'suicide'
      • 4.3 NCIS
        • 4.3.1 Existence of an NCIS record
        • 4.3.2 Extent of information in an 'open' NCIS record
        • 4.3.3 Extent of information in a 'closed' NCIS record
        • 4.3.4 Quality assurance and documentation
      • 4.4 Use of the NCIS
        • 4.4.1 Timing of use of NCIS to obtain suicide statistics
        • 4.4.2 Criteria used to assign a case in NCIS as 'suicide'
      • 4.5 ABS processes
        • 4.5.1 Timing of use of the NCIS by the ABS
        • 4.5.2 Criteria used by the ABS to assign a case in NCIS as 'suicide'
      • 4.6 The impact of timing
    • Part B-Investigation
    • 5 Methods and data (116KB PDF)
      • 5.1 Overview
      • 5.2 Methods
        • 5.2.1 Case extract from the NCIS
        • 5.2.2 Overview of methods
        • 5.2.3 Compare ISH according to two criteria based on the NCIS
        • 5.2.4 ISH deaths according to NCIS and ABS mortality data
        • 5.2.5 Checking and processing of the NCIS extract to support later analysis
        • 5.2.6 NCIS records without Underlying Cause of Death codes
        • 5.2.7 Assignment of ISH status using all information in NCIS
        • 5.2.8 Feasibility test of manual recoding
        • 5.2.9 Factors contributing to differences in assignment as ISH
        • 5.2.10 Revised estimates of ISH deaths
    • 6 Findings: describing the NCIS data (150KB PDF)
      • 6.1 Introduction and overview
      • 6.2 ISH according to two criteria based on the NCIS
        • 6.2.1 Introduction
        • 6.2.2 Overview of groups
        • 6.2.3 Assessment of six groups
        • 6.2.4 Summary of analysis of groups
      • 6.3 Comparison of ISH deaths according to NCIS data and ABS mortality data
        • 6.3.1 Use of logically equivalent criteria to identify ISH cases in the ABS mortality data and the NCIS extract
      • 6.4 NCIS records without Underlying Cause of Death codes
        • 6.4.1 Open cases
        • 6.4.2 Month of death
        • 6.4.3 Timing of NCIS record creation
        • 6.4.4 Timing of NCIS case closure by coroner
        • 6.4.5 Jurisdiction
    • 7 Findings: explaining differences and improving estimates (354KB PDF)
      • 7.1 Introduction and overview
      • 7.2 Assignment of ISH status using all information in the NCIS
        • 7.2.1 Staged case identification
        • 7.2.2 Feasibility test of manual recoding
      • 7.3 Explaining differences
        • 7.3.1 Duration from death to closure of case by coroner
        • 7.3.2 Duration from closure of case by coroner to publication
        • 7.3.3 Jurisdiction
        • 7.3.4 Is misclassification of ISH related to annual data processing?
        • 7.3.5 Characteristics of cases assigned Underlying Cause of Death codes for ISH
        • 7.3.6 Summary
      • 7.4 Revised estimates of ISH
    • 8 Discussion (89KB PDF)
      • 8.1 Revised estimates of ISH in Australia
      • 8.2 Misclassification of ISH
      • 8.3 Sources of error in estimates of ISH
        • 8.3.1 Time-related misclassification
        • 8.3.2 Ambiguity in identification of deaths as 'suicide'
        • 8.3.3 State-specific differences in the content of NCIS records
      • 8.4 Impediments and solutions
        • 8.4.1 Missing values of Underlying Cause of Death in the NCIS
        • 8.4.2 Record linkage
      • 8.5 Changes to ABS process
      • 8.6 Conclusions
        • 8.6.1 Completeness
        • 8.6.2 Reliability of trends
        • 8.6.3 Timeliness
  • End matter (89KB PDF)
    • Appendix
    • References
    • List of tables
    • List of figures

Recommended citation

Harrison J, Abou Elnour A & Pointer S 2009. A review of suicide statistics in Australia. Cat. no. INJCAT 121. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 3 May 2016 <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442468269>.

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