Suicide & self-harm monitoring: Populations & age groups

Suicide and self-harm can affect people of all ages (except very young children), races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and occupations. However, a number of subgroups are particularly important to examine in depth because their risk of suicide or self-harm is higher than that of other populations, the impact on the community is different or they have specific requirements for culturally appropriate suicide prevention or postvention services.

  • Although deaths by suicide occur more often in older age groups, it is the leading cause of death in Australian children and adolescents. Deaths by suicide at any age have profound effects on the families, friends and communities of those that die, but arguably, these effects are even greater when the person is young (see Suicide among young people).
  • Similarly to employment in general, serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) seems to be protective against suicide as rates in both serving and reserve men are lower than that of all Australian men. However, for ex-servicemen suicide rates are higher than the general population (see Australian Defence Force suicide monitoring).
  • The suicide rate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is twice that of the non-Indigenous population (see Suicide & Indigenous Australians)—although rates vary by community, age group and sex. The high rates experienced by Indigenous Australians are due to multiple, complex and interrelated social, cultural and historical influences, including colonisation, relocation of people to missions and reserves, transgenerational grief and trauma resulting from the removal of children, racism and continued socioeconomic disadvantage. However, it is important to acknowledge that Indigenous Australians may never experience suicidal behaviours or thoughts and aspects unique to their culture can be important protective factors against suicidal or self-harming behaviours.

Understanding differences in numbers and rates of suicide, intentional self-harm and suicidal behaviours in these populations is essential for more effective suicide prevention.

Other population groups identified as priority populations for suicide prevention in Australia include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) populations and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. It is currently not possible to discern these groups in the available suicide and intentional self-harm data sets; however, through the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring Project the AIHW is looking to expand data collection on these, and other population groups (see About for information on the project).