1 This publication contains summary statistics on deaths where the underlying cause of death was determined to be suicide. The registration of deaths is the responsibility of the individual state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. As part of the registration process, information about the cause of death is supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death or by a coroner. Other information about the deceased is supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased, or by an official of the institution where the death occurred. This information is provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by individual Registrars for coding and compilation into aggregate statistics shown in this publication. In addition, the ABS supplements this data with information from the National Coroners Information System (NCIS).
SCOPE AND COVERAGE
2 The statistics in this publication relate to the number of deaths registered, not those which actually occurred, in the years shown. Over the last decade about 7% of suicide deaths occurring in one year were not registered until the following year or later. The ABS deaths collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS statistics.
3 Suicide deaths in children are an extremely sensitive issue for families and coroners. The number of child suicides registered each year is low in relative terms and is likely to be underestimated. For that reason this publication does not include detailed information about suicides for children aged under 15 years. There was an average of 10.5 suicide deaths per year of children under 15 years over the period 1995 to 2005; the highest number was registered in 1999 (17), the lowest in 1995 (5). For boys the average number of suicides per year was 6.6, while for girls the average number was 3.8. These correspond to rates of approximately 0.3 per 100,000 boys and 0.2 per 100,000 girls in this age group over this period.
EXTERNAL CAUSES OF DEATH
4 Deaths that are classified as External Causes are generally of the kind that are reported to Coroners for investigation. Although what constitutes a reportable death varies across jurisdictions, they are generally reported in circumstances such as:
5 Where an accidental or violent death occurs, the underlying cause is classified according to the circumstances of the fatal injury, rather than the nature of the injury which is coded separately.
- Where the person died unexpectedly and the cause of death is unknown;
- Where the person died in a violent or unnatural manner;
- Where the person died during or as a result of an anaesthetic;
- Where the person was 'held in care' or in custody immediately before they died; and
- Where the identity of the person who has died is unknown.
6 In compiling causes of death statistics the ABS employs a variety of quality control measures, which include:
7 The quality of cause of death coding can be affected by changes in the way information is reported by certifiers, by lags in completion of coroner cases and the processing of the findings. While changes in reporting and lags in coronial processes can affect coding of all causes of death, those coded to causes within Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality are more likely to be affected because most are referred to a coroner, and for suicide, ICD-10 coding rules require evidence of intent before the relevant code is assigned.
- providing certifiers with certification booklets for guidance in reporting cause of death on medical certificates;
- seeking additional information, where necessary, from medical practitioners, from coroners and from the National Coroners Information Service (NCIS);
- check-coding of cause of death; and
- editing checks at the individual record and aggregate levels.
8 The specificity with which cases are able to be allocated to a code for an external cause of death depends on the amount of information available at the point in time at which coding is being undertaken. The following codes may include cases which could potentially have been suicides but for which the intent could not be established with the available information (according to ICD-10 coding rules). Such cases cannot be separately identified in the final causes of death statistics.
9 ABS is working with stakeholders to improve data quality by improving the amount of information available for coding of deaths from external causes, including suicides, when cause of death statistics are compiled. As well, ABS is working to improve the amount of information available on the data quality of deaths from external causes.
Firearm discharge (W31, W32, W33, W34, W40)
Accidental drowning (W65, W67, W69 ,W73, W74)
Accidental strangulation/hanging/suffocation (W75, W76, W83, W84)
Accidental falls (W13, W15, W16, W17, W19)
Exposure to unspecified factor (X59)
Accidental poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances (X40-X49)
Contact with knife, sword or dagger (W26)
Contact with nonpowered hand tool (W27)
Contact with other powered hand tools and household machinery (W29)
Exposure to unspecified electric current (W87)
Exposure to unspecified smoke, fire and flames (X09)
Lack of food (X53)
10 Care should be taken in interpreting results in recent years for several groups of causes within Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality. See Causes of Death, Australia 2005 (cat. no. 3303.0) Explanatory Notes for further information. See also Information Paper: External Causes of Death, Data Quality, 2005 (cat.no. 3317.0.55.001) which is planned for release in April 2007.
11 Other ABS publications or articles that contain information on deaths from suicide are as follows:
Causes of Death, Australia (cat.no.3303.0)- annual
Deaths, Australia (cat.no.3302.0) - annual
Information Paper: External Causes of Death, Data Quality, 2005 (cat.no.3317.0.55.001)
Suicides, Australia, 1994 to 2004 (cat.no.3309.0)
Suicides: Recent Trends, Australia, 1993 to 2003 (cat.no.3309.0.55.001)
Suicides: Recent Trends, Australia, 1992 to 2002 (cat.no.3309.0.55.001)
Information Paper: Suicides, Australia, 2001 (cat.no.3309.0.55.001)
Suicides, Australia 1921-1998 (cat.no.3309.0)
A Mortality Atlas of Australia, 1997-2000 (cat.no.3318.0)
The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005 (cat. no. 4704.0)
Trends in Mortality by Causes of Death in Australia, the States and Territories During 1971-92, and in Statistical Divisions and Sub-divisions During 1991-92 (cat.no.3313.0)
Suicide (Australian Social Trends 2000, cat.no.4102.0)
Youth suicide (Australian Social Trends 1994, cat.no.4102.0)