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Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15–44 (AIHW 2022). Males have a higher rate of suicide than females, but females have a higher rate of hospitalisation due to intentional self-harm. Intentional self-harm is one of only two major causes of injury hospitalisation (along with falls) where females outnumber males.

In 2019–20, intentional self-harm and suicide resulted in:

28,200 hospitalisations

110 per 100,000 population

3,200 deaths

13 per 100,000 population

This represents 5.3% of injury hospitalisations and 24% of injury deaths.

Determining if an injury was intentional is not always straightforward, especially when children are involved (see Technical notes). For this reason, statistics about hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm for children aged 0–14 are presented in aggregate form, and statistics about suicide are not presented for children aged under 10.

Causes of injury in hospitalisations for intentional self-harm

In 2019–20, 77% of intentional self-harm hospitalisations involved pharmaceutical drugs (Table 1).

Table 1: Cause of injury in hospitalisations for intentional self-harm, 2019–20

Cause

 

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Poisoning involving pharmaceuticals (X60–64)

21,692

77

85.0

Sharp objects (including knives) (X78)

3,414

12

13.4

Poisoning involving other substances (X65–69)

1,122

4

4.4

Other or unspecified (X70–77, X79–84)

1,948

7

7.5

Total

28,176

100

110

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
  2. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (11th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2019).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data tables B27–28.

Causes of injury in deaths by suicides

In 2019–20, the most common cause of injury in deaths by suicide was hanging, strangulation and suffocation (Table 2).

Table 2: Causes of injury in deaths by suicide, 2019–20

Cause

 

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Hanging, strangulation and suffocation (X70)

1,906

59

7.5

Poisoning involving pharmaceuticals (X60–64)

449

14

1.8

Jumping from a high place (X80)

164

5

0.6

Firearm discharge or explosive material (X72–75)

159

5

0.6

Other or unspecified (X65–69, X71, X76–79, X81–84)

539

17

2.1

Total

3,217

100

12.6

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
  2. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10 external cause codes (WHO 2011).

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

For more detail, see Data tables E39–41.

Seasonality and COVID-19

Hospital admissions due to intentional self-harm suggest some patterns over the year. There are two peaks per year, in November and February/March.

In March 2020 the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of many Australians. COVID-19 does not appear to have had a noticeable effect on the number of admissions to hospital for intentional self-harm injuries. There were 2.8% fewer intentional self-harm injury hospitalisations from March to May than the same period of the previous year (Figure 1). However this decline could be because of variation in intentional self-harm hospitalisations over time, a general decline in intentional self-harm hospitalisations, effects of COVID-19, or any combination of these and other factors. (AIHW 2022).

See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.

Figure 1: Intentional self-harm hospitalisations by month, 2017–18 to 2019–20

Notes

  1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
  2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to self-harm in 2019–20 was 3.6% lower than a year earlier.

Over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17 there was an average annual increase of 2.1%. There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the Technical notes for details).

For deaths by suicide, the average annual increase in rate between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was 1.9% (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Self-harm hospitalisations and suicide deaths, by sex, 2010–11 to 2019–20

The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2010–11 to 2019–20. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.

For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and F1–4.

Variation by age and sex

Intentional self-harm hospitalisation and suicide death rates differed for males and females and across age groups (Figure 3). While suicide rates for males were higher than for females, intentional self-harm was one of the few causes for which females had higher rates of hospitalised injury.

In 2019–20:

  • Just under 2 in 3 intentional self-harm hospitalisations (63%) were for females
  • 3 in 4 suicide deaths (76%) were for males
  • the age-standardised rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisations for females was 147 cases per 100,000, compared with 84 per 100,000 males
  • the age-standardised rate of suicide deaths for males was 19 per 100,000, compared with 6.0 per 100,000 females
  • females aged 15–24 (and within that age range females aged 15–19 in particular), had the highest rates of hospitalisation due to intentional self-harm
  • people aged 45–64 had the highest rates of suicide, followed by people aged 25–44, compared with other life-stage age groups.

Figure 3: Intentional self-harm hospitalisations and suicide deaths, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within each of 5 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default display shows rates for males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.

For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.

Severity

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be assessed. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:

  • number of days in hospital
  • time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • time on a ventilator.

The average number of days in hospital for intentional self-harm was less than for all hospitalised injuries, but the percentage of self-harm cases that included time in an ICU or continuous ventilatory support were the highest of all the main causes of hospitalised injuries (Table 3).

Table 3: Severity of intentional self-harm hospitalisations, 2019–20

 

Intentional self-harm

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

3.2

4.5

% of cases with time in an ICU

11.7

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support

9.5

1.4

Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were over 2,900 hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm and 211 deaths by suicide (Tables 4 and 5)
  • females, compared with males, were 1.6 times as likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm, but males were more at risk of suicide
  • intentional self-harm hospitalisation rates were highest in the 15–24 age group, compared with other age groups (Figure 3).
Table 4: Number and rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisations by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

1,088

1,826

2,914

Rate (per 100,000)

255

427

341

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 5: Number and rate of suicide deaths by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

151

60

211

Rate (per 100,000)

40.2

15.9

28.0

Notes:

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for the difference in population age structure, were:

  • 3.3 times as likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm (Table 6 and Figure 3)
  • around two and a half times as likely to die by suicide (Table 7).
Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of intentional self-harm hospitalisations by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

269

421

345

Non-Indigenous Australians

77

136

106

Notes

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of suicide deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

44.4

15.9

29.9

Non-Indigenous Australians

18.8

5.6

12.1

Notes

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.
  3. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

The age-specific rate of intentional-self harm hospitalisations was highest among the 15–24 life-stage age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 4). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 4: Hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2019–20

Column graph representing hospitalisation data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 5 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detailed data, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–6.

Remoteness

In 2019–20, people living in Remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, using age-standardised rates, were twice as likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm (Table 8). People living in Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, were 2.6 times as likely to die by suicide (Table 9).

Table 8: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of intentional self-harm hospitalisations by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

73

130

101

Inner regional

99

165

132

Outer regional

115

212

162

Remote

159

274

214

Very remote

148

266

202

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 9: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of suicide deaths by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

16.1

5.2

10.5

Inner regional

25.0

7.1

15.9

Outer regional

31.8

8.7

20.3

Remote

26.1

n.p.

20.3

Very remote

34.7

n.p.

27.7

n.p. Not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

The highest age-specific rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisation was among the 15–24 life-stage age group living in Remote areas of Australia. (Figure 5).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 5: Hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2019–20

Alt text - Column graph representing hospitalisation data for each of the 5 remoteness categories within 5 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D9–10.

For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download full data tables

Glossary