Suicide and intentional self-harm

Suicide and intentional self-harm are complex and can have multiple contributing factors. Although suicide and intentional self-harm are complex issues, they can be prevented.

Where to find help and support 

The AIHW respectfully acknowledges those who have died or have been affected by suicide or intentional self-harm. We are committed to ensuring our work continues to inform improvements in both community awareness and prevention of suicide and self-harm. This page discusses suicide and presents material that some people may find distressing. If this report raises any issues for you, support services can help. Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day.

Mindframe is a national program supporting safe media coverage and communication about suicide, mental ill health and alcohol and other drugs. Resources to support reporting and professional communication are available on the Mindframe website

Visit Suicide & self-harm monitoring for information on suicide and self-harm data.

What are suicide and intentional self-harm?

Suicide is an action taken to deliberately end one’s own life, while intentional self-harm is deliberately causing physical harm to oneself but not necessarily with the intention of dying.

About deaths data

There is a lag between the occurrence of a death by suicide and the reporting of that death within national suicide monitoring counts.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collects demographic and cause of death information on all registered deaths in Australia from the states and territories. These deaths are then reviewed 12 and 24 months after initial processing so that any change in information regarding the deceased’s intention to die can be updated (ABS 2023). Visit ABS Causes of Death for more information. 

Suicide registers operational in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory can provide more timely data on suspected deaths by suicide. Data from these registers will not be publicly available unless the relevant jurisdiction decides to release data. Whilst they are not directly comparable with data released by the ABS, the differences are generally small (approximately 95% accurate or better). Visit Suicide registers to learn more about suicide register data.

How common is suicide?

In 2022, there were 3,249 deaths by suicide – an average of about 9 deaths per day. The age standardised rate was 12.3 deaths per 100,000 population, which is down from 13.2 in 2017. Since 1907, the male age-standardised suicide rate has been consistently higher and more variable than the female rate (Figure 1). Variations in the overall suicide rate in Australia have been largely driven by changes in the male suicide rate (ABS 2023).

For more information, visit Deaths by suicide in Australia.

Did rates of suicide change during COVID-19?

There has been considerable commentary since the start of the pandemic on its potential to impact on the incidence of deaths by suicide. Much of this commentary has been based on modelling using previous experience including the relationship between unemployment and deaths by suicide. However, data covering the period up until the end of 2021 does not indicate an increase in suicide deaths in Australia during the pandemic.

National mortality data published by the ABS show that the rate of death by suicide in Australia was lower in 2020 (12.1 per 100,000 population) and 2021 (12.0) than in 2019 (13.1), see Deaths by suicide over time. That said, ABS coding of psychosocial risk factors associated with deaths by suicide in 2020 determined that 3.2% of these deaths had the pandemic mentioned in either a police or pathology report or a coronial finding. In 2021, the percentage of suicide deaths where the pandemic was mentioned, decreased to 2.6%. In most of these cases, other risk factors for suicide were also present. In 2021, the pandemic appeared to impact on people in different ways, including through job loss and financial insecurity as well as general concern or anxiety about societal changes or contacting the virus (ABS 2023). See Suicide registers and The use of mental health services, psychological distress, loneliness, suicide, ambulance attendances and COVID-19 for more information.

Figure 1: Suicide deaths by sex, Australia, 1907 to 2022

Suicide deaths by sex, Australia, 1907 to 2022.

The line graph shows age-standardised rates of suicide for males, females and persons from 1907 to 2022. Users can also choose to view the number of deaths by suicide and male to female rate ratios from 1907 to 2022 and median age at death by sex from 1964 to 2022. The data can be viewed for any period between the years for which data are available.

Trends over time

Numbers and rates of deaths by suicide change over time as social, economic and environmental factors influence suicide risk. The data visualisations below provide an overview of the characteristics of people who have died by suicide in Australia since 1907. This analysis may provide useful information on potentially preventable factors, such as restricting access to means of suicide and reducing the risks posed by social or economic factors. Over time, the accuracy and quality of the data collected have been influenced by a number of factors including changes in legislation, technology and a reduction in social stigma.

  • Between 1907 to 2022, age-standardised suicide rates in Australia ranged from 8.4 deaths per 100,000 population per year (in 1943 and 1944) to 18.4 in 1963.
  • Suicide rates peaked in 1913 (18.0 deaths per 100,000 population), 1915 (18.2), 1930 (17.8), 1963 (18.4) and 1967 (17.7). These peaks tended to coincide with major social and economic events or changes.
  • In 2022, the rate was 12.3 deaths per 100,000 population – down from a post-2006 high of 13.2 in 2017 and 2019. It is important to note that deaths registered in 2022 and 2021 are preliminary and as such, are subject to revision (ABS 2023).

For more information, visit Deaths by suicide over time.

Sex and age differences

Figure 2 shows age-specific suicide rates for males are higher than those for females across all reported age groups for all years.

The age distribution of deaths by suicide is similar for males and females, and the highest proportion of deaths by suicide occur during mid-life. More than half of all deaths by suicide (54.6%) in 2022 occurred in people aged 30–59 with 1,774 deaths, while 24.5% of suicide deaths occurred in people aged 60 and over (797 deaths), and 20.5% occurred in people aged 15–29 (665 deaths). Suicide was the leading cause of death among people aged 15–44 in 2022 (ABS 2023).

The highest suicide rate for males in 2022 occurred in those aged 85 and over (32.7 deaths per 100,000 population). This is followed by males aged 45-49 (32.6), and males aged 50–54 (27.4). The highest suicide rate for females was also among those aged 85 and over (10.6 deaths per 100,000 population), and the lowest was for females aged 65-69 (4.4).

For information, visit Deaths by suicide over time.

Figure 2: Suicide deaths by age and sex, Australia, 2022

Suicide deaths by age and sex, Australia, 2022.

The bar chart shows the age-specific rates of suicide for males and females by age groups (five year age bands from 15–19, 20–24, etc to 80-84 and 85 and over). Users can choose to view numbers of deaths by suicide for males and females in these age groups.  Data can also be viewed by year from 1907.

Geographical variation

The number and rate of deaths by suicide differs between states and territories and across different regions of Australia.

Patterns of deaths by suicide between states and territories can reveal insights that may be masked by results for the whole of Australia and may help to highlight different risk factors and assist in better targeting of suicide prevention activities.

In 2022, the age-standardised suicide rate ranged from 10.8 per 100,000 population in New South Wales to 20.5 in the Northern Territory. The highest number of deaths by suicide was in New South Wales (911), followed by Queensland (773), Victoria (754), Western Australia (377) and South Australia (242) (ABS 2023).

For more information, visit Suicide deaths by states & territories and Suicide & self-harm by geography.

First Nations people 

Age-standardised rates of deaths by suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people have increased over time, from 22.7 per 100,000 population in 2013 to 29.9 in 2022. This is more than double the rate for non-Indigenous suicide deaths in 2022 (11.7). In 2022, 212 First Nations people died by suicide.

In the five years from 2018 to 2022, suicide rates for First Nations people were highest for those aged 25–44 with 50.0 per 100,000 population. In comparison, the suicide rate across 2018 to 2022 for non-Indigenous people in the same age group was 15.9 per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates for young First Nations people, aged 24 years and under, in the five years from 2018 to 2022 (16.0 per 100,000 population) were more than 3 times as high as non-Indigenous Australians in the same age-group for this period (5.2 per 100,000 population) (ABS 2023).

For more information, see Deaths by suicide amongst First Nation Australians and Indigenous health and wellbeing.

How common is hospitalisation for intentional self-harm?

In Australia, there were around 26,900 cases of intentional self-harm hospitalisations in 2021–22 (AIHW, 2023).

What are the sources of data on intentional self-harm?

Understanding the scale of the problem of intentional self-harm in Australia is difficult because many cases of self-harm are unreported, unless medical treatment is required.

Only those patients admitted to hospital for intentional self-harm are currently routinely reported in national data sets. Hospital admissions data are collated as an annual release with a 12-month lag. Data are also available from ambulance attendance records and national population surveys such as the Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (Department of Health 2015). 

Visit Intentional self-harm hospitalisation and Ambulance attendances for more information.

Sex and age differences

Rates of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm are higher for females. This is the opposite of what is seen in deaths by suicide, where rates are higher for males. This may, in part, be due to differences between methods used by males and females – with males tending to use more lethal methods than females. Other possible contributing factors include the fact that some self-harm occurs with no suicidal intent and that differentiating out suicide attempts from other types of self-harm cannot be easily identified in the current national emergency department data collection (Figure 3).

In 2021–22:

  • Two-thirds of people (67%) hospitalised for intentional self-harm injuries were female (around 18,000 hospitalisations).
  • The rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisations was higher for females than males (139 per 100,000 population compared with 69 per 100,000 population).
  • The rate for females aged 0–14 increased from 41 per 100,000 population in 2019–20 to 72 in 2020–21 (AIHW, 2023).

Young people have the highest rates of hospitalisation for intentional self-harm

In 2021–22, the age and sex-specific rate was highest for females aged 15–19 (637 hospitalisations per 100,000 population), followed by females aged 20–24 (342 per 100,000 population). For more information, see Intentional self-harm hospitalisations by age groups.

Figure 3: Intentional self-harm hospitalisations, by age and sex, Australia, 2008–09 to 2021–22

Intentional self-harm hospitalisations by age and sex, Australia, 2008–09 to 2020–22.

The bar chart shows the age-specific rates of intentional self-harm hospitalisations for males and females for specific age groups and all ages combined in 2020–21. Users can also view age-specific rate, numbers and the proportion of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm by sex for each age group and year from 2008–09 to 20209–22.

How do intentional self-harm hospitalisations vary across states and territories?

The rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisations varied between states and territories in 2021–22, with the Northern Territory reporting the highest rate (238 hospitalisations per 100,000 population), which is more than double the national rate (105 hospitalisations per 100,000 population). The lowest rate was recorded in New South Wales (68 hospitalisations per 100,000 population). Reporting is based on a patient’s usual residence, not necessarily where they received treatment.

For more information visit Intentional self-harm hospitalisations by states & territories and Suicide & self-harm monitoring: Geography.

Are people in regional and remote areas at greater risk of intentional self-harm hospitalisations?

Understanding the geographical distribution of hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm based on patients’ area of usual residence can help target suicide prevention activities to areas in need.

In 2021–22:

  • Residents of Very remote areas recorded a rate of 193 hospitalisations per 100,000 population, compared to that of residents in Major cities (97 per 100,000 population) which recorded the lowest rate.
  • The majority of intentional self-harm hospitalisations were residents of Major cities (66%).
  • Young people aged 15–19 had the highest rates of intentional self-harm hospitalisations in each remoteness area except Very Remote where 20–24-year-olds had the highest rate.
  • The highest rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisations overall was in the 15-19 age group in Remote areas (608 hospitalisations per 100,000 population), followed by the same age group in Outer Regional areas (566 per 100,000 population) (AIHW, 2023).

A similar pattern was seen with deaths by suicide as age-standardised suicide rates tended to increase with remoteness of place of residence. For more information visit Deaths by suicide by remoteness areas.

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on suicide and self-harm, visit Suicide & self-harm monitoring.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with thoughts of suicide or suicide-related behaviour, help is available.