Suspected deaths by suicide in New South Wales
The New South Wales Suicide Monitoring System is a collaboration between NSW Health, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), the State Coroner and NSW Police, which was established in October 2020. NSW Health publishes monthly reports on suspected deaths by suicide occurring in New South Wales.
The latest report for November 2022 found there were 917 suspected deaths by suicide in New South Wales in 2021. This is higher than the number of deaths reported for 2020 (900) but lower than for 2019 (946) (NSW Health 2023).
From 1 January 2022 to 30 November 2022, there were 885 suspected deaths by suicide recorded in NSW, compared with 818 suspected suicide deaths recorded during the same period in 2021, 812 recorded in 2020, and 851 in 2019 (NSW Health 2023). Of those suspected suicide deaths recorded between January and November in 2022, 689 were male. There were 600 male suspected suicide deaths recorded during the same period in 2021, 604 in 2020, and 658 in 2019. For females, there were 196 suspected suicide deaths recorded between January and November 2022. There were 218 female suspected suicide deaths recorded during the same period in 2021, 208 in 2020 and 193 in 2019.
Figures 1 and 2 below show the monthly frequencies of suspected deaths by suicide and cumulative monthly number of suspected deaths by suicide, respectively, from 1 January 2019 to 30 November 2022.
Figure 1: Number of suspected deaths by suicide in New South Wales, by month, January 2019 to November 2022
Figure 2: Cumulative number of suspected deaths by suicide in New South Wales, by month, January 2019 to November 2022
Data for each year from 2019 to 2022 show that in NSW (NSW Health 2023):
- around three-quarters of suspected deaths by suicide were among males
- more than half of all suspected deaths by suicide occurred among those aged between 25 and 54.
In each year from 2019 to 2021, around half of suspected suicide deaths occurred among residents of Greater Sydney, with the remainder comprising residents of the rest of NSW and a small number of interstate/overseas residents. However, year-to-date data from 1 January to 30 November 2022 show that residents of Greater Sydney accounted for 56% of suspected suicide deaths (NSW Health 2023). This relative increase in suspected suicide deaths in Greater Sydney is being monitored.
Suspected deaths by suicide in Victoria
The Coroners Court of Victoria (CCV) established the Victorian Suicide Register in 2012 and publishes monthly data reports on suspected deaths by suicide.
The Monthly Suicide Data Report for December 2022 shows that the number of deaths in Victoria suspected to be from suicide in 2022 was 756. This was higher than the number of suspected suicide deaths in 2021 (693), 2020 (691), 2019 (700) and 2018 (697) (CCV 2023a).
The monthly data show considerable variation (see Figure 3), which, according to the Coroners Court of Victoria, usually results from random factors rather than underlying systemic issues or emerging clusters. The data therefore should be interpreted cautiously, with great care taken in drawing conclusions about any apparent increase or decrease that is observed (CCV 2023a).
In previous years, the monthly fluctuations have tended to even out over the course of a year (see Figure 4). The increase seen in 2022 ‘is in contrast to the preceding four years, in which Victoria had seen a plateau in suicide numbers’ (CCV 2023b). The number of suspected suicides between January and July 2022 was consistent with previous years, with a monthly average of 58 deaths. However, between August and December 2022, the average monthly frequency increased to 71 deaths, which ‘might signal an emerging trend’ (CCV 2023b). The highest increase was seen in the 65 years and older cohort from 118 deaths in 2021 to 156 deaths in 2022. This was followed by the 45 to 54 age cohort, from 128 deaths in 2021 to 155 deaths in 2022. Governments are monitoring the increase in suicide numbers closely.
Figure 3: Number of suspected deaths by suicide in Victoria, by month, January 2016 to December 2022
Figure 4: Cumulative number of suspected deaths by suicide in Victoria, by month, January 2016 to December 2022
Data for each year from 2016 to 2022 show that in Victoria (CCV 2021a, 2021b, 2023a):
- around three-quarters of suspected deaths by suicide are among males
- the majority of suspected deaths by suicide for both males and females occur among those aged between 25 and 54
- around two-thirds of suspected deaths by suicide occur in metropolitan locations.
CCV has also published data on suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The number of suspected or confirmed deaths by suicide in 2021 for Indigenous Australians in Victoria was 35, compared to 20 in 2020, 21 in 2019, 16 in 2018. Between 2009-2019, there were between 6 and 17 deaths by suicide (noting that data for this period are unreliable). CCV notes that based on the historical context, this does not appear to be a result of random effects or fluctuation in the data (CCV 2022).
There was a marked difference between sex, with the number of suspected suicides among Indigenous males rising from 12 in 2020 to 25 in 2021 compared to a rise from 8 to 10 for Indigenous females over the same period (CCV 2022).
Suspected deaths by suicide in Queensland
The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) at Griffith University manages the Queensland Suicide Register (QSR) and the interim Queensland Suicide Register (iQSR). The QSR contains data on confirmed deaths by suicide from 1990 to 2018 and iQSR contains data on suspected deaths by suicide from 2019 onwards (Leske et al. 2022). AISRAP publishes a report on suicides in Queensland annually.
Due to the time needed to complete coronial investigations, it can take several years for a death to be confirmed as suicide and entered into the QSR. Until this time, data on deaths where suicide is suspected are available from the iQSR.
Data from the iQSR show that 813 suspected deaths by suicide of Queensland residents occurred in Queensland in 2021 (Leske et al. 2022). The figure was an increase from 2020 (778) and the highest number of suicides of Queensland residents in a calendar year (Leske et al. 2022). Previously, the highest number of suicides in a calendar year (806) had been recorded in 2017 (Leske et al. 2022).
AISRAP has estimated monthly age-standardised suspected suicide rates for residents of Queensland from 1990 to 2021, taking into account population growth for more meaningful comparisons between years. Figures 5 and 6 show monthly age-standardised rates of suspected deaths by suicide from January 2019 to December 2021 (data supplied by AISRAP 2022).
The estimated age-standardised suspected suicide rate for Queensland residents in 2021 (15.5 per 100,000 population) was 3.1% higher than in 2020 (15.1) (Leske et al. 2022). When looking at males and females separately, the estimated suspected suicide rate for males decreased from 2020 to 2021 (from 24.0 to 23.7 per 100,000 population), while the rate for females increased (from 6.5 in 2020 to 7.6 in 2021) (Leske et al. 2022).
Figure 5: Age-standardised suspected deaths by suicide rate per 100,000, Queensland male residents, by month, January 2019 to December 2021
Figure 6: Age-standardised rate of suspected deaths by suicide per 100,000, Queensland female residents, by month, January 2019 to December 2021
Data from the iQSR for 2021 show that of the 813 Queensland residents who died by suspected suicide (Leske et al. 2022):
- 75.0% were male and 25.0% were female
- the majority of suspected deaths by suicide for both males and females occurred among those aged between 20 and 59.
Of the 813 suspected deaths by suicide that occurred among Queensland residents in 2021, 57 (7.0%) of those were among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Leske et al. 2022).
Leske et al. (2022) have analysed age-specific suspected suicide rates in the COVID-19 period (February 2020 to December 2021) and before COVID-19 (January 2015 to January 2020) for males and females separately. The analysis found that, while there were some differences by sex and age, there was no evidence of an increase in suspected suicide rates since the onset COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions. However, examination of police reports indicated that between 29 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 the pandemic appeared to be a contributing factor in 86 of the 1,539 suspected suicides (5.6%). For more information see: COVID-19.