3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2013 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/03/2015   
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In 2010, a senate inquiry (The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia) highlighted the potential costs of suicide to individuals, families and communities. Suicide can be defined as the deliberate taking of one's life (Butterworths Concise Australian Legal Dictionary, 1997, Butterworths Sydney). Detailed information on how deaths are classified as suicide by the ABS can be found in Explanatory Notes 87-93.

This chapter contains summary statistics on suicide deaths registered in Australia, where the underlying cause of death was determined as Intentional self-harm (suicide (X60-X84, Y87.0)). Further information on suicides is presented in the data cubes associated with this publication.

External causes of death are required to be examined by the coroner, who investigates both the mechanism by which a person died, and the intention of the injury (whether accidental, intentional self-harm or assault). For a death to be determined a suicide, it may be established by coronial inquiry that the death resulted from a deliberate act of the deceased with the intention of ending his or her own life (intentional self-harm). In addition to coroner-determined suicides, deaths may also be coded to suicide following further investigation of information on the NCIS. For further information on how a death may be coded to suicide, see Explanatory Notes 87-93.

Impacts of changes to administrative systems

Since 2007, the ABS has invested in a revisions program for coronial data which allows additional time for cases to be investigated and determinations on the mechanism and intent of the death to be made. Revisions occur over the two years following the release of preliminary data. Coding practices have also been improved to allow coders to use information available on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) to apply a preliminary code to open coronial cases. Since the introduction of the revisions process the number of deaths coded to suicide has been lower for preliminary data, and has increased in releases of revised and final data.

Over time, the NCIS has worked with jurisdictions to improve the timeliness and completeness of information flowing from the Coronial systems to the NCIS database. These improvements lead to changes in the information available to ABS coding staff. It is therefore important that data users are aware of any significant improvements in the management of coronial data to enable better interpretation of data within, and between reference periods.

In 2012, the implementation of JusticeLink in the NSW coronial system changed how information is exchanged between the NSW coroners courts and the NCIS. This system enables nightly uploads of all new information to the NCIS, and as a result information pertaining to NSW coronial cases is available earlier in the investigation process and the information is more complete for the purposes of coding causes of death.

There is evidence that the system change in NSW has improved the quality of preliminary coding in relation to suicide deaths. There has been an increase in preliminary counts of NSW suicide deaths for 2012 and 2013 and fewer recorded cases of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34). Revised suicide counts in NSW for 2012 show only a small increase on preliminary counts, again pointing to the increased quality of preliminary data. However, the full impact of this change will not be quantifiable until final data is released in 2016.

More broadly, this change in administrative systems highlights how various factors (including administrative and system changes, certification practices, classification updates or coding rule changes) can impact on the mortality dataset. Data users should note this particular change and be cautious when making comparisons between reference periods. The change does not explain away differences between years, but is a factor to consider.

For further information, see Explanatory Notes 87-93. Further information on the revisions process the ABS undertakes can be found in Explanatory Notes 52-54 and Technical Note, Causes of Death Revisions, 2011 and 2012.