Psychosocial factors contribute to death

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Crisis and support services

Death is not wholly attributable to disease, injury or health-related risk factors (such as smoking). It is well established that non-medical factors, such as social determinants, play a role in a person’s life and death (WHO 2024; AIHW 2022). Since 2017, information on some of these factors (described as psychosocial risk factors) has been collected for coroner-referred deaths (ABS 2019). Deaths are referred to a coroner in circumstances where: the death was a result of an accident or injury; the identity of the person is unknown; they were in custody or care; the death was health care-related; the person died unexpectedly; or the cause of death is not known.

In 2022, more than 23,000 deaths were certified by a coroner. Of these more than 40% were due to (an underlying) external cause, such as falls, road traffic accidents, poisoning, and suicide. Information from police, pathology and coroner reports can provide details of the non-medical circumstances that were experienced by the person and were thought to have contributed to the death. Understanding these circumstances can highlight the need to implement or improve social policies or interventions for specific groups of people.

Psychosocial factors can include long-standing and unmodifiable circumstances such as negative events in a person’s childhood, history of self-harm or care needs due to disability. Other more temporary factors, such as fights within a primary support group, legal proceedings or unemployment, could also be identified as contributing to a person’s death.

Looking at psychosocial factors more broadly as determinants of health, we can begin to understand these circumstances and how they affect death. In this report, psychosocial factors have been categorised into 14 specific groups, including for example: housing; economic and education; intimate partner issues; support systems; and other community and safety issues. Examples of these contexts are provided below (see Classification of health conditions in the Technical notes for a more detailed list).

Intimate partner

  • Relationship issues
  • Separation/divorce
  • Domestic violence


  • Stress and burnout
  • Beliefs and behaviours
  • Life management

Individual health status

  • Health status and history
  • Health behaviours
  • Worried well

Personal history of self-harm

  • Suicidal and non-suicidal deliberate self-injury
  • Self-inflicted pain
  • History of suicide attempt

Other community and safety issues

  • Social environment issues
  • Bullying
  • Family history of disease


  • Unemployment
  • Job loss
  • Stressful work schedule
  • Discord with workmates

Experience of violence/trauma

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Psychological trauma
  • Abuse or maltreatment
  • Experience of violence/trauma not in childhood

Support systems

  • Primary support group issues
  • Estrangement from family
  • Living alone or social isolation


  • Negative events in childhood
  • Issues relating to upbringing
  • Physical or sexual abuse

Care needs

  • Need for assistance
  • Palliative care
  • Limitation of activities due to disability

Suicide ideation

  • Thoughts of suicide, with or without intent


  • Homelessness
  • Inadequate housing

Economic and education

  • Financial issues
  • Low income
  • Problems with education


  • Occupational exposures
  • Unsafe sleeping environments
  • Natural disasters


  • Imprisonment
  • Incarceration
  • Other legal circumstances

Data source for psychosocial factors

Analysis of psychosocial and social determinants of health in this web report are compiled from data available on the National Mortality Database. These circumstances as they relate to death are captured through information available on the National Coronial Information System and are coded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Data for 2022 are preliminary and subject to further revision (ABS 2022).

The availability and detail of information surrounding these circumstances differ by jurisdiction. While this report does not represent complete coverage of the circumstances experienced by all people, it provides insight into the value of utilising non-medical circumstances in multiple cause of death analysis.

For more statistics on determinants of health, see Determinants of health in Health indicators and Welfare indicators.