3309.0 - Suicides, Australia, 1994 to 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/03/2006   
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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 Service (NCIS).


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 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:

  • 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.

4 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.


5 In compiling causes of death statistics the ABS employs a variety of quality control measures, which include:

  • 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.

6 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 the code assigned within the chapter may vary depending on the coroner's findings.

7 In regard to the impacts on quality resulting from lags in finalising coronial processes, ABS is investigating options for revising deaths data to capture more complete cause of death information.

8 Care should be taken in interpreting results in recent years for several groups of causes within Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality. These include Intentional self-harm (suicide) (X60-X84), Falls(W00-W19) and Assault (X85-Y09). See Causes of Death, Australia 2004 (cat. no. 3303.0) Explanatory notes for further information.

9 In relation to suicide, there has been an increase in recent years in the number of open coroners' cases. Where cases are not finalised and the findings are not available to the ABS in time for publication of causes of death statistics, deaths are coded to other accidental, ill-defined or unspecified causes rather than suicide. The causes of death statistics are not revised once a coronial enquiry is finalised.

10 The number of deaths coded to Intentional self-harm (suicide) has declined in recent years which may in part reflect the increase in open coroners' cases when the statistics were finalised.