Deaths by suicide among First Nations people
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For further information about the wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people, see the Indigenous Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse managed by the AIHW. This website was developed in consultation with experts in First Nations mental health and suicide prevention, practitioners and policy makers. It brings together key research to improve the evidence base on Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention.
Since 2001, age-standardised suicide rates among First Nations people have been higher than those of non-Indigenous Australians. Preliminary 2022 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Causes of Death (CoD) indicate that the rate of suicide deaths is approximately two and a half times as high among First Nations people compared with non-Indigenous Australians. Reducing deaths by suicide and suicidal behaviour among First Nations people is an issue of major concern for many First Nations communities and a public health priority for all Australian governments. By understanding the factors involved in suicide deaths among First Nations people, and how they may be different to non-Indigenous Australians, prevention strategies can be better targeted to reduce suicide deaths.
Deaths by suicide are reported for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded (see Technical notes for further information). All totals on this page, are the sum of these selected jurisdictions only (New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory). No national totals are reported for deaths among First Nations people or non-Indigenous Australians, on this page.
Suicide rates among First Nations people
- suicide accounted for 4.6% of all deaths among First Nations people, with males experiencing a greater proportion of suicide deaths out of all causes of deaths compared with females (6.5% and 2.5% respectively).
- almost one quarter (24.5%) of all deaths by suicide among First Nations people were of females, while males accounted for just over three-quarters (75.5%) of all deaths by suicide among First Nations people.
- First Nations males experienced 3.3 times the rate of suicide deaths compared with First Nations females (46.3 and 14.0 suicide deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).
- both First Nations males and females experienced suicide deaths at a higher rate than their non-Indigenous counterparts. The rate of death by suicide for First Nations males was 2.6 times that of non-Indigenous males. The suicide rate for First Nations females was 2.5 times that of non-Indigenous females.
The line graph shows the age-standardised rates of suicide for First Nations people and non-Indigenous people from 2001 to 2022. Users can also choose to view age-standardised rates, numbers of deaths by suicide and deaths by suicide as a proportion of all causes of death for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by sex.
Over the last decade, between 2013 and 2022, age standardised rates of suicide among First Nations people ranged between 22.4 and 29.9 deaths per 100,000 population. Understanding the complexity and interrelationship between protective and risk factors for suicide among First Nations communities is important in designing culturally appropriate and relevant suicide prevention programs and policies. This is because concepts of wellbeing among First Nations people are shaped by factors such as historical events, community values and cultural beliefs, all of which interact and protect from or increase the risk of suicide. See Protective and risk factors for suicide among Indigenous Australians for more information.
Caution should be exercised when analysing trends in deaths by suicide for First Nations people due to data quality issues, including the under-identification of First Nations people in deaths data and the uncertainties in estimating and projecting the size and structure of the First Nations population over time. The data may also be impacted by the willingness of an individual to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and how this willingness may change over time due to a variety of factors. For information about these data quality issues see: Investigating enhancements of Indigenous data in suicide-relevant data sets. It is also important to remember that age-standardised rates based on only a small number of deaths by suicide will exhibit a large amount of variation and that increases in numbers of deaths by suicide and rates should be treated with caution as improvements in identifying Indigenous status among deaths data may (at least in part) account for the rise in case numbers and rates. Caution is also advised when making comparisons to 2022 data due to an improvement in methodology for deriving Indigenous status for deaths registered in New South Wales. The use of a secondary source for determining Indigenous status of the deceased has introduced a break in time series of data related to deaths and First Nations people (for further information please visit here).
Death by suicide across age groups among First Nations people
Suicide contributes to premature mortality in First Nations people, especially in younger age groups. Data from the National Mortality Database and the ABS CoD from 2018–2022 showed:
- The percentage of all deaths, among First Nations people, that were deaths by suicide was highest for younger age groups. For those aged 0–24 years, almost a quarter of all deaths (22.0%) were by suicide. For those aged 25–44 years, 19.2% of all deaths were by suicide. For 45–64 year olds, it was 2.3% and for those aged 65 years and older, 0.2% of deaths were by suicide.
- The rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 population among First Nations people was highest among 25–44 year olds (50.0 deaths per 100,000 population). This was followed by 45–64-year-olds (23.4), 0–24 year olds (16.0) and those aged 65 and over (9.9).
- Among First Nations people aged 0–24 and 25–44, suicide rates were more than 3 times as high (3.1 each) compared to non-Indigenous Australians.
- Non-Indigenous Australians aged 65 years and over experienced a higher suicide rate compared to First Nations people of the same age (13.2 and 9.9 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).
The proportion of all deaths that were deaths by suicide was higher among First Nations people aged 0–24 years compared to non-Indigenous Australians aged 0–24 years (22.0% and 16.8% respectively). However, non-Indigenous Australians experienced higher proportions of deaths by suicide within every other age-group compared with First Nations people.
Suicide deaths by Indigenous status and age groups, selected states and territories, 2018-2022.
This bar chart shows the death by suicide crude rates (per 100,000), number and per cent of all cause of deaths for Indigenous and non-Indigenous, by age group, from 2018–2022. Users can also choose to view by 5-year aggregates from 2001–2005 to 2018–2022.
Death by suicide across age groups and selected states and territories among First Nations people
Between 2018–2022, the highest suicide rate among First Nations people was in Western Australia for those aged 25–34 (87.0 suicide deaths per 100,000 population). Within the Northern Territory, the highest rate of death by suicide was also for those aged 25–34 years (46.9). Compared to other age groups, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia had their highest rates among 35–44-year-olds (48.6, 54.9 and 43.2 respectively). The lowest suicide rate was in those aged 0–24 in New South Wales (8.5). This was similarly observed in Western Australia (17.9) and South Australia (15.0), while those aged 45 and over had the lowest rates in Queensland (16.2) and Northern Territory (22.3).
Deaths from suicide, by Indigenous status and age, selected states and territories, 2018–2022.
This bar chart shows the age-specific rates (per 100,000) for deaths from suicide, for First Nations people and non-Indigenous people by age group, from 2018–2022. Users can choose to view by 5-year aggregates from 2001–2005 to 2018–2022. Users can also choose to view by New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and the total of these states and territories.
Death by suicide across sex and selected states and territories among First Nations people
Across selected states and territories between 2018–2022, First Nations people experienced the highest age–standardised rate (per 100,000 population) in Western Australia (38.1 suicide deaths per 100,000), followed by the Northern Territory (31.6) and Queensland (28.1). These were all greater than the rate summed across selected states and territories, for First Nations people (27.6 deaths per 100,000 population). A similar pattern was seen among First Nations males and females with Western Australia having the highest rate (56.3 and 20.0 respectively). Summed across selected states and territories, First Nations male suicide rates were almost three times higher (2.9) than First Nations females.
Summed across selected states and territories, the rate of death by suicide between 2018–2022, was 2.3 times greater for First Nations people compared to non-Indigenous Australians. The difference, in rates of suicide death among First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians, was particularly stark in Western Australia. In Western Australia, the rate of death by suicide among First Nations males was 2.9 times greater than among non-Indigenous males, and First Nations females was 3.0 times that non-Indigenous females.
Please note, First Nations suicide rates in Western Australia vary between different regions. To guide government, non-government organisations and communities in preventing suicide in Western Australia, the Western Australia Mental Health Commission developed the Western Australian Suicide Prevention Framework 2021–2025 (Government of Western Australia Mental Health Commission 2020).
Deaths from suicide, by Indigenous status, sex and selected states and territories, 2018-2022.
This bar chart shows the age-specific rates (per 100,000) for death by suicide among First Nations people and non-Indigenous people, by selected states and territories, from 2018–2022. Users can choose to view by 5-year aggregates from 2001–2005 to 2018–20288. Users can also choose to view by NSW, Qld, WA, SA, NT and the total of these selected states and territories.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Protective and risk factors for suicide among Indigenous Australians. Catalogue number IMH 11, AIHW, Australian Government.
Government of Western Australia Mental Health Commission 2020. Western Australian Suicide Prevention Framework 2021–2025. Perth: Mental Health Commission