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4914.0.55.001 - Newsletter: Age Matters, Apr 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/04/2003   
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SUICIDE IN OLDER AGE GROUPS

The ABS produces data annually showing the reported causes of deaths occurring in Australia each year, based on information provided by Registrar-Generals in each State and Territory plus additional information, where required, from coroners reports. The following extract from ABS Information Paper: Suicides Australia (cat. no. 3309.0.55.001) reports on the incidence of suicides by age group. The Information Paper can be viewed in full at the ABS website.

Suicide has emerged in recent years as a major public health issue. Although death by suicide is a relatively uncommon event (in 2001, only 1.9% of all deaths registered were attributed to suicide), the human and economic costs are significant. Suicide amongst older people is of particular interest in light of social isolation, elder abuse issues and the public debate on euthanasia.


DEFINITION

Suicide is the deliberate taking of one's life. To be classified as a suicide, a death must be recognised as due to other than natural causes. It must also be established by coronial inquiry that the death resulted from a deliberate act of the deceased with the intent of ending his or her own life. The data presented in this article contains summary statistics on suicide deaths according to the year in which the deaths were registered.


OVERALL TRENDS

In 2001, (the most recent year for which data are available) 2,454 deaths by suicide were registered, compared with 2,363 in 2000. The age standardised rate** for the year 2001 (12.5 deaths per 100,000 persons) was 2.2% higher than the 2000 age standardised rate of 12.2 per 100,000 persons. However, the age standardised rate in 2001 was 15% lower than in 1997 (14.6 deaths per 100,000) when the highest ever number of suicides were registered (2,720).


AGE AND SEX

Over the period 1991 to 2001 male suicides have outnumbered female suicides by a factor of approximately four. This ratio was fairly consistent across all age groups.

The pattern of age-specific suicide rates for older males aged 65-74 years has remained stable over this period with suicide rates for those aged 75 years and over proving more volatile. In 1991, a rate of 38.2 per 100,000 was recorded, declining to a low of 24.4 per 100,000 in 2001, although there were peaks in death rates for males in this age group, particularly in 1997, reaching 36.1 per 100,000.



Age-Specific Death Rates for Suicide
Age-Specific death rates for Suicide
Source: ABS, unpublished data, Causes of Death


FURTHER INFORMATION

More detailed information is available upon request from the ABS including methods of suicide, state and territory analyses and a range of demographic information relating to the deceased person e.g. marital status, country of birth and usual place of residence. Subject to confidentiality, much of this information may be available for single years of age. For further clarification of data concepts and customised tabulations, contact the Health and Vitals National Project Centre, Brisbane on 1800 620 963.

Other available ABS products which may be of interest include:
Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0) - issued annually
Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) - issued annually
Suicides, Australia 1921-1998 (cat. no. 3309.0) - issued irregularly

** Age standardised rate: expresses death rates per 100,000 persons using the standard population (all persons in the 1991 Australian population).

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