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Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15–44 (AIHW 2020).

In 2017–18, 5.5% of hospitalised injury cases were due to intentional self-harm and 23% of injury deaths were due to suicide.

Males are particularly at risk from suicide and females from being hospitalised due to intentional self-harm. Intentional self-harm and falls are the only two major causes of injury hospitalisation where females outnumber males.

Determining whether an injury is intentional or not is not always straightforward (see Technical notes) and is especially difficult for children. For this reason, intentional self-harm hospitalisation statistics are presented in aggregate form for ages 0–14, and suicide statistics are not presented for children aged under 10.

In 2017–18, intentional self-harm and suicide resulted in:

29,493 hospitalisation cases

119 per 100,000 population

3,000 deaths

12.1 per 100,000 population

This article only includes data on injuries that result in hospital admission or death. If a person dies from an injury after being admitted to hospital, both the hospitalisation and the death is included in this report. For more information, see Defining injury hospitalisation cases and injury deaths.

Which types of intentional self-harm resulted in hospitalisation?

In 2017–18, 78% of intentional self-harm hospitalisations involved pharmaceutical drugs (Table 1).

Table 1: Top causes of intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases, 2017–18

Cause

Number

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Poisoning involving pharmaceuticals (X60–64)

23,089

78

93

Sharp objects (including knives) (X78)

3,548

12

14.3

Poisoning involving other substances (X65–69)

1,161

4

4.7

Other or unspecified (X70–72, X74–77, X79–84)

1,695

6

6.8

Total

29,493

100

119

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 (10th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2017).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detailed data, see Data tables B19–20.

Trends over time

Since 2008–09, there has been:

  • a 1.7% annual average increase in intentional self-harm hospitalisation rates to 2016–17
  • a 1.7% annual average increase in suicide death rates to 2017–18.

Annual average rate changes are calculated using modelled age-standardised rates (see Technical notes for more details).

The increase in suicide deaths has not been constant—suicide rates were fairly steady from 2007 to 2010, rose from 2010 to 2015 and have fluctuated since then (Biddle et al. 2020).

Because of changes in data collection methods, hospitalisations data for 2017–18 should not be compared with those of previous years and are not included in Figure 1 (see Technical notes for more details). Death data for 2017–18 are comparable with rates for previous years.

Figure 1: Intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases and suicide deaths, by age group and sex, 2008–09 to

The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2008–09 to 2016–17 for hospitalisation cases and to 2017–18 for deaths. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number, and can select by life-stage age group including all ages.

For more detailed data, see Data tables C1–4 and E1–4.

How do rates vary by age and sex?

Intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation and suicide death rates differed for males and females and across age groups (Figure 2). While suicide rates for males were higher than for females, hospitalisation caused by intentional self-harm was 1 of the few injury causes where females outnumbered males.

In 2017–18:

  • 64% of intentional self-harm injury hospitalisations were for females (18,987 cases) and 36% were for males (10,496 cases)
  • 77% of suicide deaths were for males (2,297 deaths) and 23% were for females (703 deaths)
  • the age-standardised rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisations for females was 161 cases per 100,000 females, compared with 87 per 100,000 males
  • the age-standardised rate of suicide deaths for males was 18.5 per 100,000 males, compared with 5.6 per 100,000 females
  • people aged 15–24 (and within that age range people aged 15–19 in particular), had the highest rates of hospitalisation due to intentional self-harm, compared with other life-stage age groups
  • people aged 45–64 had the highest rates of suicide, followed by people aged 25–44, compared with other life-stage age groups.

Figure 2: Intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases and suicide deaths, by age group and sex, 2017–18

The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases 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 detailed data, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.

How severe are hospitalised injuries?

Three measures that may indicate the severity of a hospitalised injury are length of stay, percentage of cases with time in an intensive care unit (ICU), and percentage of cases involving continuous ventilator support.

The average duration of a hospital stay for intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases was similar to the overall average length of stay for all hospitalised injuries, but the percentages of intentional self-harm cases that included time in an ICU or continuous ventilator support were the highest of all the main causes of hospitalised injuries (Table 2).

Table 2: Severity of intentional self-harm hospitalisation cases, 2017–18

 

Intentional self-harm injury

All hospitalised injuries

Average number of days in hospital

2.8

3.3

% of cases with time in an ICU

11.4

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilator support

8.1

1.2

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 2017–18, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were almost 2,700 hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm injury and over 140 deaths due to suicide (Tables 3 and 4)
  • females, compared with males, were 1.8 times as likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm injury, but males were more at risk of suicide, with a rate 3.5 times that of the female suicide rate
  • intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation rates were highest in the 15–24 age group, compared with other life-stage age groups (Figure 3).
Table 3: Number and rate of intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

966

1,729

2,695

Rate (per 100,000)

235

420

328

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 4: Number and rate of suicide deaths by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

112

32

144

Rate (per 100,000)

30.9

8.8

19.9

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 2017–18, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for the difference in population age structure, were:

  • 2.9 times as likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm (Table 5 and Figure 3)
  • 1.7 times as likely to die by suicide (Table 6).
Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

257

419

338

Non-Indigenous Australians

82

152

116

Notes:

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

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of suicide deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

32.8

9.1

20.9

Non-Indigenous Australians

19.3

5.6

12.3

Notes:

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ includes 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 hospitalisation cases was highest among the 15–24 life-stage age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 3). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 3: Intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2017–18

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–A6 and D4–D8.

Remoteness

In 2017–18, people living in Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, using age-standardised rates, were:

  • 1.7 times as likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm injury. However, people living in Remote areas were the most likely to be hospitalised due to intentional self-harm injury, with a rate 1.9 times as high as people living in Major cities (Table 7)
  • 2.1 times as likely to die by suicide (Table 8).
Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

75

140

107

Inner regional

106

196

150

Outer regional

121

232

175

Remote

155

264

207

Very remote

115

255

180

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 Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 8: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of suicide deaths by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

15.9

5.4

10.5

Inner regional

23.5

5.8

14.5

Outer regional

29.0

5.4

17.3

Remote

27.4

n.p.

17.9

Very remote

29.3

n.p.

22.1

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 cases was among the 15–24 life-stage age group living in Remote areas of Australia. (Figure 4).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 4: Intentional self-harm injury hospitalisation cases by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2017–18

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 detailed data, see data tables A7–A9 and D9–D10.

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

More information

Technical notes—read about how the data were calculated.

Data tables—download full data tables.

Glossary

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