Trends in suicide rates

Suicide death rates for males, adjusted for age, fluctuated around 20 deaths per 100,000 population per year in the period 1921 to 2010. Rates for females were about 5 deaths per 100,000 population per year in most of this period, peaking above twice that rate in the 1960s.

Suicide rates for males in the Baby Boomer generation (those born from 1946 to 1965), Gen X (those born from 1966 to 1975) and Gen Y (those born from 1976 to 1985) rose more rapidly with age in their early adult years than occurred in the generations of their fathers and grandfathers. Rates for males in the iGeneration appear not to have risen as far or fast by about age 20 as the 3 preceding generations. For males born in the 20th century, suicide rates from about 50 years have been lower in each more recent generation. For females, there was no marked variation in age-specific rates between recent birth cohorts.

Male rates of suicide by hanging have more than doubled since the early 1980s. Female rates show a similar pattern, although at lower levels. Suicide by hanging has been the most common mechanism of suicide in Australia since 1989 for males and since 1997 for females.

Shooting by firearms was the most common mechanism of suicide by males in Australia for at least 60 years, to the mid-1980s, with a rate above 5 deaths per 100,000 males for nearly all of this period. Rates for males and females declined greatly from the late 1980s.

Rates of suicide due to exposure to poisons (except gas) were similar for males and females from the early 1940s through to 2010. There was a significant peak for both sexes in the 1960s, attributed mainly to barbiturate sedatives.

Poisoning by gas was largely due to carbon monoxide in domestic gas and motor vehicle exhaust gas. Until the 1960s, when toxic 'town gas' was replaced by less toxic gases in most of Australia, domestic gas was the main source, especially for women. Rates rose in the 1980s and 1990s, especially for men, when the source was almost always motor vehicle exhaust gas. A sharp decline after 1997 was most likely due to emission controls, which greatly reduced the amount of carbon monoxide permitted in the exhaust gas of new motor vehicles.

Suicide rates tended to increase with the remoteness of the person's place of residence.

For the period from 2007-08 to 2010-11, suicide rates for Indigenous males and females were around twice as high as the corresponding rates for Other Australian males and females.

Trends in rates of hospitalisation due to intentional self-harm

Rates for females hospitalised as a result of intentional self-harm were at least 40% higher than male rates over the period from 1999-00 to 2011-12, with female cases out-numbering male cases most markedly in the teen years.

Poisons (except gas) accounted for almost 82% of all hospitalisations due to intentional self- harm over the period from 1999-00 to 2011-12. Contact with sharp objects and hanging accounted for a further 12% and 2% respectively.

For the period from 2007-08 to 2010-12, rates of hospitalised intentional self-harm for Indigenous males and females were around 2.5 times and 2 times as high as the rates for Other Australian males and females respectively.