Suicide deaths in 1998

Suicide is a prominent public health problem in Australia. Currently, more than 2,500 people die by suicide each year.

A total of 2,683 suicides were registered in 1998. Of these, 80.1% were males. The age-standardised rate for males of all ages was 23.1 per 100,000 population and 5.6 per 100,000 for females of all ages. Rates were highest for males aged 20-39 years and for males aged 80 years and older. Female rates were on average about four times less than the rates for males.

Overall, hanging was the most common method of suicide for both males and females in 1998. For males, motor vehicle exhaust gassing was the second most common method, but suicide by firearm formed only 10.1% of cases. For females, poisoning by solid or liquid substances was the second most common method used to commit suicide and firearms were used in less than 5% of suicide deaths.

The proportion of hanging in males increased from 1997 to 1998 (i.e. up from 35.9% to 47.1%), whereas the proportion for male suicides by firearm decreased from 14.4% in 1997 to 10.1% in 1998.

During 1998, the largest number of suicides was registered in New South Wales (865 cases) and the smallest number in Australian Capital Territory (30 cases). Victoria and Australian Capital Territory had suicide rates significantly lower than the national average, whereas Queensland's rate was significantly higher. However, the differences between jurisdictions are fairly small and in some other years, the rates do not vary significantly from the national average.

The highest rate for males was observed in the Northern Territory (NT) and the lowest in Victoria and Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Except for Victoria, these rates did not differ significantly from the national average rate. For females, the highest suicide rate was observed in Queensland and the lowest in ACT.

The profiles for age-specific suicide rates for males and females were fairly similar to the distribution for the whole of the country, but the profiles for Tasmania, NT and ACT were difficult to interpret because of the effect of small case counts.

In all States and Territories, except Tasmania, hanging had the highest rates of all methods used for suicide. In Tasmania, gassing by motor vehicle exhaust fumes was the most common method. Motor vehicle exhaust gassing was the second most common method for suicide in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and ACT, while in Tasmania and NT it was firearms.