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COUNTRY OF BIRTH
At 30 June 2010, 27% of the 22.3 million people estimated to be resident in Australia were born overseas. It is acknowledged that while suicide rates across geographic regions of the world differ significantly, the degree to which birthplace might influence the actions of an individual once present in Australia is unknown. This chapter includes data for all persons present in Australia at the time of their death and is not limited to residents.
The House of Representatives report – ‘Before it’s too late’ recommended that ethnicity and culture be reported for deaths from suicide. This information is not currently captured in ABS datasets. However, country of birth is collected in the Cause of Death dataset and is of suitable quality for analysis. While country of birth cannot be considered a measure of an individual’s ethnicity or cultural identity, statistics on suicide by country of birth may assist in highlighting trends more broadly across the population.
Countries of birth reported in this chapter are grouped according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (cat. no. 1269.0). Countries have been further grouped or disaggregated to ensure that counts of deaths provided are statistically robust. For example, the United Kingdom, North America and New Zealand have been extracted from their respective groupings of North-West Europe, Americas and Oceania and Antarctica. Conversely, Sub-Saharan Africa was combined with the existing group of North Africa and the Middle East due to the relatively small number of suicide deaths for persons born in these countries. The countries which comprise each group are listed in the footnotes for Table 5.1.
Further data relating to suicide deaths and country of birth are available in the data cubes associated with this publication. These include the number of suicide deaths by country of birth and the number of years resident in Australia by age group for the period 2001-2010.
Caution should be taken when interpreting suicide counts by country of birth. Considerable differences exist in the population sizes of people born in particular countries. As such, raw counts of suicides may not provide an accurate depiction of the incidence of suicide amongst persons born in any particular country but who are present in Australia at the time of their death.
Age-standardised death rates take into account the differences in size and structure of populations born in different countries. However, population counts by country of birth are only available for Census years. For this reason, rates used in this chapter have been calculated for deaths occurring between 2004 and 2008, using the 2006 population counts by country of birth for calculating death rates. It should be noted that country of birth is reported by relatives, friends or institutions at the time of a death whereas country of birth is self-reported on the Census. As such there may be some under or misreporting of country of birth on death certificates.
SUICIDE AND COUNTRY OF BIRTH
Persons born in Australia accounted for 74.9% of all suicide deaths between 2001 and 2010. A further 7.4% of suicide deaths were of persons born in Europe (excluding the United Kingdom), 7.1% were of persons born in the United Kingdom and 3.8% were of persons born in Asia.
The age-standardised rate of suicide for the period 2004 to 2008 was highest for people born in New Zealand (13.5 deaths per 100,000 population), followed by those born in Australia (11.6 deaths per 100,000) and the United Kingdom (11.5 deaths per 100,000). The lowest suicide rates, at 5.3 and 5.9 deaths per 100,000 population respectively, were recorded for persons born in Asia, and persons born in Africa and the Middle East. As such, the rate of suicide for people born in Australia is approximately twice that for those born in Asia, or in Africa and the Middle East. Rates of suicide for people born in New Zealand, North America and Europe (including the UK) are more similar to that of Australian born people.
Table 5.1 shows the number of suicide deaths by country of birth and 10 year age groups for the years 2001 to 2010 combined. The number of suicide deaths has been aggregated across this period to improve the reliability of the data given the relatively small number of deaths by suicide. Table 5.1 also shows age-standardised suicide rates for 2004 to 2008 combined for each country grouping.