Deaths by suicide, by states and territories

Patterns of deaths by suicide between states and territories can reveal insights that may be masked by results for the whole of Australia. Variations in the rates of deaths by suicide across states and territories may help to highlight different risk factors and assist in better targeting of suicide prevention activities. For example, differences in the ratio of urban to regional and remote areas may explain some of the differences across states and territories given that the rates of suicide tend to be higher in regional and remote areas, see Suicide by remoteness areas.

Information based on the deceased’s usual state or territory of residence is available for deaths registered after 1979. Deaths by suicide may be presented by either year of death or by year of registration. Reporting by year of death can provide more reliable information on trends in occurrence than reporting by year of registration; however, the latest data available underestimates the occurrence of recent deaths due to a lag in registration, for more information, see Technical notes. Here, statistics based on both year of registration of death and year of occurrence of death are presented.

Suicide deaths by states and territories, Australia, 1979 to 2018.

The line graph shows age-standardised suicide rates by year of registration for all states and territories and Australia from 1979 to 2018. Users can also choose to view age-standardised suicide rates, numbers of deaths by suicide, year-on-year change in age-standardised suicide rate and year-on-year change in numbers of deaths by suicide, by year of registration and year of death. Data can be viewed for any period between 1979 and 2018. During this period, rates in the Northern Territory tended to be the highest and were the most variable, ranging from slightly above the national rate in 1999 (14.3 deaths per 100,000 population compared with 13.2) to nearly 3 times the national rate in 2007 (29.8 compared with 10.6). 

How do suicide rates vary across states and territories?

From 1979 to 2018, age-standardised suicide rates based on death registrations:

  • tended to be lower for New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory than the overall Australian suicide rate while rates for all other jurisdictions tended to be higher
  • tended to be highest in the Northern Territory (14.2 to 29.8 deaths per 100,000 population); however, it was one of the jurisdictions with the lowest number of deaths by suicide (from a high of 56 in 2014 to a low of 7 in 1982).

In 2018:

  • the age-standardised suicide rate ranged from 9.1 per 100,000 population in Victoria to 19.5 per 100,000 in the Northern Territory.

Age-standardised suicide rates allow for comparisons between states and territories by adjusting for differences in age structures and population size. Rates fluctuate over time—particularly in the smaller jurisdictions—due to the small number of deaths by suicide that are registered each year. Caution is advised when comparing state and territory data.  Differences in coronial processes, data processing or coding practices should also be taken into consideration when comparing data across jurisdictions and over time.

In 1979, the highest number of deaths by suicide was in:

  • New South Wales (539 deaths), followed by Victoria (462), Queensland (296), South Australia (178) and Western Australia (116).

By 2018, the highest number of deaths by suicide was in:

  • New South Wales (899), followed by Queensland (786), Victoria (593), Western Australia (383) and South Australia (212).

However, it should be noted that New South Wales and Victoria have the largest populations in Australia and the populations of both Queensland and Western Australia increased considerably from 1979 to 2018.

What is the effect of reporting deaths by suicide by year of occurrence?

The data for age-standardised rates and number of suicide deaths are broadly similar when analysed by year of death or year of registration. Minor differences arise due to the elapsed time prior to registration with recent years showing some differences due to incomplete coronial processes and registrations.