Intentional self-harm hospitalisations by method

Understanding the methods used for intentional self-harm can play an important role in its prevention. These data are provided to inform discussion around restriction of access to means as a policy intervention for the prevention of suicide and self-harm.

Please consider your need to read the following information. If this material raises concerns for you or if you need immediate assistance, please contact a crisis support service, available free of charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Please consider the Mindframe guidelines if reporting on these statistics.

The classification system used to code hospital admissions data, ICD-10-AM, uses the term ‘mechanism’ to refer to the external cause of a self-inflicted injury. Throughout Suicide & self-harm monitoring ‘mechanism’ has been used in data visualisations, while the term ‘method’ has been used in the accompanying text.

Hospitalisations data for patients with intentional self-harm injuries includes those with and without suicidal intent. For further information see Technical notes.

Hospitalisations for intentional self-harm, by age, sex and mechanism, Australia, 2008–09 to 2019–20.

The line graph shows the age-specific rates of intentional self-harm hospitalisations for persons of all ages from 2008–09 to 2019–20 by method of self-harm. Users can also choose to view age-specific rate, numbers and proportion of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm by sex for each age group. From 2008–09 to 2019–20, the highest rates of intentional self-harm hospitalisations by method were for self-poisoning by drugs in the anti-epileptic, sedative-hypnotic, anti-parkinsonism and psychotropic drugs category, which for all years except 2016–17, were more than twice the rates of the second highest category, non-opioid analgesics, antipyretics and anti-rheumatics. The third highest rates during the 10-year period were for self-injury with sharp object.

Most intentional self-harm hospitalisations are due to poisoning by pharmaceutical drugs

Between 2008–09 and 2019–20, the 2 most common methods of self-harm resulting in hospitalisation were:

  • intentional self-poisoning by anti-epileptic, sedative-hypnotic, anti-parkinsonism and psychotropic drugs (X61), responsible for 42% of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm in 2019–20. Benzodiazepines are included in this category.
    • In 2019–20, around 7,800 females were hospitalised as a result of this method of self-harm, compared with about 4,300 males.
  • intentional self-poisoning by non-opioid analgesics, antipyretics and anti-rheumatics (X60), responsible for 19% of intentional self-harm hospitalisations in 2019–20. 
    • This category includes anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, antipyretics (for example, aspirin and acetaminophen) and anti-rheumatics (some of which are used to treat arthritis).
    • More than 3 times as many females were hospitalised due to this method of self-harm in 2019–20 compared with males (almost 4,200 and almost 1,200 hospitalisations, respectively).

Contact with sharp objects (X78) was another common method of self-harm resulting in hospitalisation.

  • Contact with sharp objects accounted for 12% of all intentional self-harm hospitalisations in 2019–20, with more females than males hospitalised for this method of self-inflicted injury (almost 1,900 and over 1,500 hospitalisations, respectively).

Hanging (X70) and Gas (X67) were the only methods of intentional self-harm that resulted in more hospitalisations of males than females in 2019–20 (551 and 287 hospitalisations, and 129 and 35 hospitalisations, respectively).