Suicide and self-inflicted injuries contribute substantially to the burden of disease within the Australian population. Burden of disease analysis measures the combined impact of living with illness and injury (non-fatal burden) and dying prematurely (fatal burden) using the Disability-adjusted Life Years (DALY) metric.
This report presents new data on the disease burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries in Australia in 2019. Interactive data visualisations provide detailed information by age and sex, on changes over time, and on differences by key population groups. Throughout this report, supplementary tables are referenced using the prefix ‘S’ (for example, Table S1). These supplementary tables are available on the Data page.
Burden of disease estimates for 2019 are not available for other diseases and injuries; hence, it was not possible to update the disease rankings and proportion of total burden due to suicide and self-inflicted injuries for the 2019 reference year. However, as these statistics are not expected to change much from year to year, they have been estimated using data from the 2018 ABDS.
In 2019, Australians lost 145,703 years of healthy life due to suicide and self-inflicted injuries – representing around 3% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia. Nearly all (99%) of the burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries was due to dying prematurely (fatal burden). On average, males and females lost 42 years of life due to dying from suicide in 2019. Suicide was the third leading cause of fatal burden in Australia in 2018 (second for males) and the leading cause of fatal burden for males and females aged 15–44 (AIHW forthcoming 2021a).
Three-quarters of the total burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries in 2019 occurred in males, and it was highest in people aged 25–34.
After adjusting for population increase and ageing, there was a 13% increase in total burden due to suicide and self-inflicted injuries between 2003 and 2019 (from 5.2 to 5.9 DALY per 1,000 population).
Burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries varied by population
In 2019, the rate of burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries:
- was lowest in Victoria and highest in the Northern Territory, where the rate was 1.6 times as high as the national rate
- generally increased with increasing remoteness, with the highest rates of burden among people living in Remote and Very remote areas, where the rates were 2.3 times those for Major cities
- increased with increasing socioeconomic disadvantage, with the rate of burden among people in the lowest socioeconomic areas (most disadvantaged areas) being twice as high as that of those in the highest (least disadvantaged) socioeconomic areas.
Almost half the burden can be attributed to behavioural risk factors
A portion of disease burden could be prevented if exposure to modifiable risk factors is avoided or reduced. In 2019, it is estimated that almost half (48%) of the burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries is due to 4 modifiable risk factors:
- child abuse and neglect during childhood among people aged 5 and over
- alcohol use among people aged 15 and over
- illicit drug use among people aged 15 and over
- intimate partner violence among females aged 15 and over.
In 2019, child abuse and neglect during childhood was the leading risk factor contributing to the burden of suicide and self-inflicted injuries in both males and females. It was associated with 33% of total suicide burden in females and 24% in males aged 5 and over.
Alcohol use was the second leading risk factor among males and was responsible for 17% of the burden due to suicide and self-inflicted injuries among males aged 15 years and over in 2019 (18,108 DALY); while, for females, intimate partner violence contributed almost 20% of the burden among those aged 15 years and over (6,964 DALY).