Latest release

Causes of Death, Australia

Statistics on the number of deaths, by sex, selected age groups, and cause of death classified to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

Reference period
2020

Key statistics

  • COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death (898 deaths).
  • In 2020 there was a decrease in mortality in Australia. 
  • The five leading causes decreased, with a significant reduction in respiratory diseases.
  • Rates from suicide, drug overdoses and car crashes decreased.
  • Alcohol-induced death rates increased by 8.3%.

2020: Deaths during the first year of the pandemic

The unprecedented events of 2020 has raised questions about their impact on the health of the Australian population. In January many regions in Australia were in the midst of a severe bushfire season. At this time there was also growing concern globally about COVID-19, a respiratory infection caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. By 11 March the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The emergence of COVID-19 and its potential direct and indirect health effects made tracking of mortality more important than ever. Civil registration based mortality data provided important insights into deaths from COVID-19 and deaths from other causes, highlighting the broader impacts of the pandemic and related measures on population health and health service delivery.

The ABS has published provisional mortality counts for doctor-certified deaths during the pandemic period. These data provide an early indicator of changes in patterns of mortality, but do not include information on deaths that were coroner referred including accidents, assaults and suicides.

This report provides snapshots for selected causes of death for 2020 for both doctor and coroner certified deaths. Further information on causes of death in 2020 can be found in accompanying articles and the datacubes available from the data downloads section of this publication. 

2020: COVID-19 mortality

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection caused by a new coronavirus. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. Information relating to COVID-19 mortality for both 2020 and 2021 is also published in the Provisional Mortality Statistics publication. 

For the 898 people who died from COVID-19 in 2020:

  • COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death.
  • Their median age at death was 86 years.
  • Just over half were female (460 female deaths, 438 male deaths).
  • People who died from the virus under the age of 70 were more likely to be male.
  • Dementia was the most common pre-existing condition (275 deaths).
  • Chronic cardiac conditions, hypertension and diabetes were also commonly reported comorbidities.
  • The majority of deaths occurred in people with a usual residence of Victoria (800 deaths).
  1. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting 2020 data.
  2. COVID-19 is coded to ICD-10 codes U07.1 and U07.2.
  3. Includes deaths registered in that year.   
  4. Includes only deaths where COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death. 
COVID-19 mortality by state and territory of usual residence and sex, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)
NSWVicQldSAWATasNTACTAus
Male313834371000438
Female28417213702460
Total5980064101702898
  1. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting 2020 data.
  2. COVID-19 is coded to ICD-10 codes U07.1 and U07.2.
  3. Includes deaths registered in that year.   
  4. Includes only deaths where COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death.

2020: Overview of key mortality indicators

2020: All cause mortality by sex

Tracking deaths from all causes shows how mortality patterns changed during the pandemic from all conditions, not just from COVID-19 itself. To show the mortality pattern over the last decade the age-standardised death rates (SDRs) are presented below for males, females and persons. The SDRs for 2017-2019 have been adjusted to account for late registrations. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

  • When adjusted for late registrations the SDR in 2020 was 6% lower than in 2019 (488.8 versus 519.1). 
  • While SDRs have been generally decreasing over time, the 6% decrease between 2019 and 2020 is the largest single year change in the last 10 years.
  • Both males and females recorded the lowest SDR for the last decade.
  • Australia is one of a small number of countries including New Zealand and Denmark which recorded a lower death rate during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  1. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. Includes deaths registered in that year.      
  4. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

2020: All cause mortality by age

Data is presented in the table below as age-specific death rates (ASDRs) for selected age-groups. ASDRs for 2017-2019 have been adjusted to account for late registrations. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

In 2020:

  • The age-specific death (ASDR) rate decreased across all age groups.
  • Young males (0-24 years) and older females (85 years and over) recorded the largest proportional decreases in sex-specific death rates from 2019, at 6.3% and 7.0% respectively.
  • People aged 85 and over recorded the largest proportional decrease in ASDRs at 6.6%. 
Age specific death rates for all-cause mortality, by sex and selected age groups, 2011-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)
Age group and sex2011201220132014201520162017201820192020
Males
0-2446.343.543.139.341.740.740.740.341.839.2
25-44106.4103.798.8106.9108.4103.3105.299.1101.197.0
45-64455.8434.0436.8452.6456.9441.3437.9438.0449.3425.8
64-842,829.12,672.32,604.22,552.12,526.32,469.12,428.82,349.02,358.22,248.6
85+15,334.014,903.314,381.514,442.614,760.114,474.114,406.313,862.014,081.813,220.9
Females
0-2431.129.429.227.526.824.625.823.925.223.9
25-4456.954.153.355.454.956.052.249.950.549.1
45-64272.5266.5269.3272.0271.6263.8262.5265.0261.9251.3
64-841,896.21,837.61,756.51,762.71,747.51,667.61,662.01,587.91,600.51,500.0
85+12,997.012,849.112,354.712,758.513,070.012,603.812,743.112,102.812,463.511,592.3
Persons
0-2438.936.636.333.534.532.933.532.333.731.7
25-4481.678.976.181.281.679.578.674.475.772.9
45-64363.5349.4352.1361.0362.7350.8348.4349.7353.6336.6
64-842,341.22,237.22,163.42,142.32,122.42,053.72,031.41,954.31,964.81,859.5
85+13,802.313,567.313,074.813,366.113,689.513,298.313,369.612,770.913,085.212,222.8
  1. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  2. Age-specific death rates reflect the number of deaths for a specific age group, expressed per 100,000 of the estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year) of that same age group (see the Glossary in this publication for further information).
  3. Includes deaths registered in that year.
  4. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

2020: Top five leading causes of death

Leading causes of death give an indication of the health of a population and help to ensure that health resources are directed to where they are needed most. During the pandemic many countries saw a change in mortality patterns, including COVID-19 becoming a leading cause of death.

In 2020:

  • The top five leading causes of death remained the same as in 2019 (Ischaemic heart disease, Dementia including Alzheimer's disease, Cerebrovascular diseases, Lung cancer and Chronic lower respiratory diseases) .
  • The age-standardised death rate decreased for all top five leading causes of death from 2019. 
  • Deaths due to chronic lower respiratory diseases (including emphysema) had the highest proportional rate decrease from 2019 at 17.8%.
  • The reduction in acute respiratory conditions such as pneumonia contributed to a decrease in the top five leading causes of death.
  • All top five leading causes of death are non-communicable diseases (they are not passed from person to person).
  1. Causes listed are based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information. 
  2. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data. 
  3. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  4. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.
  6. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for Ischaemic heart disease (I20-I25) have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

2020: Respiratory disease mortality

Tracking respiratory diseases through the pandemic has been important for a number of reasons. Some countries have experienced increased levels of mortality from pneumonia, indicating some misclassified COVID-19 mortality. Tracking the number of deaths from respiratory diseases can also provide insights into the success of public health measures. Many acute respiratory diseases (such as influenza and some types of pneumonia) are transmitted via droplets, so measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as increased personal hygiene and social distancing can also reduce the spread of other communicable diseases.

Respiratory diseases include acute manifestations such as influenza and pneumonia but also chronic diseases such as emphysema, asthma and interstitial lung disease. People with chronic lung diseases can be particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes from contracting infectious diseases including COVID-19. 

In 2020:

  • There was a 23.9% decrease in the age-standardised death rate from respiratory diseases.
  • Influenza and pneumonia mortality had the highest proportional rate decrease of all respiratory diseases with a drop of 45.8% from 2019.
  • There were 55 people who died from influenza. This compares to 1,080 in 2019.
  • Pneumonia is also a common terminal cause of death, especially for older people who have long term chronic conditions. There was a decrease of more than 20% in influenza and pneumonia as an associated cause of death (where it was not the underlying cause of death). 
  • The decrease in the respiratory disease death rate from 2019 is the largest recorded over the last ten years.
  1. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. Includes deaths registered in that year. 
  4. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  5. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  

2020: Potentially avoidable mortality and selected external causes of death

2020: Potentially avoidable mortality

Potentially avoidable deaths are deaths that are either preventable or treatable from a current health care and public health perspective. They include both natural diseases, including many types of cancer, ischaemic heart disease, diabetes and infectious diseases, and external causes of death (e.g. suicide, assault) of people aged under 75. 

For people who died from potentially avoidable causes in 2020:

  • There were 26,995 people who died from potentially avoidable causes (17,231 males and 9,764 females). This compares to 27,979 deaths in 2019 (17,854 males and 10,125 females). 
  • The age-standardised death rate is the lowest in the ten year time series for both males and females, with the largest decrease occurring between 2019 and 2020.
  • While the mortality rate has decreased the sex ratio has remained constant at 1.8 (male to female).
  • The potentially avoidable mortality rate for all people was less than 100 per 100,000 people for the first time in the ten year time series
  1. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. Includes deaths registered in that year.      
  4. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  5. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  
  7. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication. 
  8. Potentially avoidable deaths are classified according to the National Healthcare Agreement: PI 16- Potentially Avoidable Deaths, 2020 Classification. https://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/716490

2020: Suicides

For people who died by suicide in 2020: 

  • There were 3,139 deaths due to suicide (2,384 males and 755 females). This compares to 3,318 suicides in 2019 (2,502 males and 816 females). 
  • The age-standardised suicide rate was 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people, a 6.2% decrease from 2019.
  • For females, the suicide rate was the lowest since 2013 and for males the lowest since 2016.
  • The median age at death for people who died by suicide was 43.5.
  • Suicide was the 15th leading cause of death compared to the 13th in 2019.
  • Over 90% of people who died by suicide had risk factors identified including depression, substance use and abuse, and issues in spousal relationships.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the b.  Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.   
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

2020: Motor vehicle accidents

There were 1,163 people who died from a motor vehicle accident (870 males and 293 females). This compares to 1,282 in 2019 (966 males and 316 females)

  • The death rate from motor vehicle accidents decreased by over 10% from 2019.
  • The rate decrease was highest for males with 96 less males dying in motor vehicle accidents than in 2019.
  • For both males and females the mortality rate was the lowest in the ten year time series.
  • For males, those aged under 25 had the largest numerical decrease with 46 less deaths than in 2019.
  • For females, those aged over 45 had less deaths than in 2019. Among younger women the number of deaths increased by 36.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the b.  Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for motor vehicle accidents includes ICD-10 codes V00-V79 and V89.2. 
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
  6. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments for detailed information on this issue.

2020: Assaults

There were 241 people who died by assault (167 males and 74 females). This was similar to the number of deaths in 2019 (245 deaths).

  • The age-standardised rate of assault mortality decreased slightly to 0.9 from 1.0 in 2019. The rate in 2020 is equal to the lowest rate (2017) in the ten year time series. 
  • The number of females who died by assault increased slightly (74 deaths 2020, 71 deaths 2019). This resulted in a slight increase in the assault rate for females (0.6 in 2020 versus 0.5 in 2019). 
  • For males, those aged over 25 had a decrease in deaths due to assault.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the b.  Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for assaults includes ICD-10 codes X85-Y09 and Y87.1. 
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
  6. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

2020: Drug-induced deaths

Drug-induced deaths are those which are directly attributable to drug use. A drug-induced death includes both those due to acute toxicity (e.g. overdose) and due to chronic use (e.g. drug-induced cardiac conditions). 

There were 1,842 drug-induced deaths (1,187 males and 655 females). This compares to 1,874 in 2019 (1,188 males and 686 females). 

  • There was a 4% decrease in the age-standardised rate of drug-induced deaths from 2019.
  • The rate for all people is the lowest since 2013.
  • The rate decrease from 2019 was 5.8% for females, a higher proportional decrease than for males over the same period (2.1% reduction).
  • Opioids were the most common drug class identified in toxicology for drug-induced deaths.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the b.  Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for drug-induced deaths in this publication is based upon a tabulation with both acute and chronic affects of drugs. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for the complete tabulation. 
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
  6. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

2020: Alcohol-induced deaths

Alcohol-induced deaths are those where the underlying cause can be directly attributed to alcohol use, including acute conditions such as alcohol poisoning or chronic conditions such as alcoholic liver cirrhosis. 

There were 1,452 people who died of an alcohol-induced death (1,056 males and 396 females). 

  • There was an 8.3% increase in the age-standardised rate of alcohol-induced deaths, with 108 additional deaths since 2019.
  • For females, the rate is equal to the highest in the ten year time series at 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people (12.0% increase).
  • While there was a 6.9% increase in the rate for males, it is not the highest rate increase or rate in the ten year times series. 
  • The rate increase is largely due to conditions associated with long term alcohol use including liver cirrhosis.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the b.  Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. Alcohol-induced deaths includes ICD-10 codes; E24.4, G31.2, G62.1, G72.1, I42.6, K29.2, K86.0, F10, K70, X45, X65, Y15. 
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
  6. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for 2017-2019 have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

Australia's leading causes of death, 2020

  • In 2020 there were 161,300 deaths, a decrease from 2019. 
  • Ischaemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death, accounting for 10.3% of all deaths. 
  • Deaths from the top five leading causes all decreased from 2019.
  • The top five leading causes of death have remained the same since 2011.
  • There were 898 deaths from COVID-19, ranking as the 38th leading cause of death.

Leading causes of death

There were 161,300 deaths registered in Australia in 2020.

In 2020 for people who died:

  • 52.4% were male (84,588) and 47.6% were female (76,712).
  • Their median age at death was 81.7 years (78.9 for males, 84.6 for females).
  • The top five leading causes accounted for more than one-third of all registered deaths.

Identifying and comparing leading causes of death in populations is useful for tracking changes in patterns of mortality and identifying emerging trends. For more information related to the tabulation of leading causes, see the Methodology section of this publication.

In 2020: 

  • The leading cause of death was ischaemic heart diseases (IHD).
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease was the second leading cause of death. People who died from dementia had a high median age at death of 89.1.
  • Cerebrovascular diseases, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases rounded out the top five leading causes. 
  • Deaths from the five leading causes all decreased from 2019.
  • There were 55 deaths due to influenza. Influenza and pneumonia dropped to the 17th leading cause of death (down from the 9th leading cause in 2019). The ranking of influenza and pneumonia is influenced by the severity of the flu season. 
  • Suicide was the 15th leading cause of death. People who died from suicide had median age at death of 43.5.
  • COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death, with 898 deaths recorded through the civil registration system. 

From 2011 to 2020:  

  • Deaths due to Ischaemic heart diseases and Cerebrovascular diseases decreased by 22.9% and 15.8% respectively.
  • Deaths due to Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease increased by 47.8% (4,711 deaths).
Leading causes of death, Australia - selected years - 2011, 2015, 2019, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)
Cause of death and ICD-10 code2011201520192020Median Age (2020)
no.Rankno.Rankno.Rankno.Rankyears
Top 20 leading causes of death and ICD code
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)21,526119,911118,244116,587184.1
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30)9,864312,635215,016214,575289.1
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)11,245210,86739,89139,470386.1
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)8,11748,47048,82148,457474.5
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)6,56558,01758,37257,102580.4
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0)5,20665,54965,41065,483677.1
Diabetes (E10-E14)4,21174,69074,96775,148781.4
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)3,97984,41684,79384,754878.5
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)3,384103,446103,903104,019987.2
Malignant neoplasm of prostate (C61)3,294113,197113,611123,5681082.5
Accidental falls (W00-W19)1,872172,614163,298143,3951187.3
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)3,48693,55893,648113,2491288.9
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)2,416142,764153,207163,2441375.2
Malignant neoplasms of breast (C50)2,938122,967143,261153,1441472.0
Intentional self-harm [suicide] (X60-X84, Y87.0) (e)(f)2,393153,093123,318133,1391543.5
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47-I49)1,617192,344172,408172,4011689.1
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)2,487133,069134,12492,2871788.8
Malignant neoplasm of liver and intrahepatic bile ducts (C22)1,423241,820212,204182,1921872.4
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)1,592201,868202,111202,1861964.7
Melanoma and other malignant neoplasms of skin  (C43-C44)2,087162,164192,093212,1232079.1
Other selected causes not in Top 20 leading causes
COVID-19 (U071, U072) (g)n/an/an/an/an/an/a8983886.9
All Causes146,932n/a159,052n/a169,301n/a161,300n/a81.7

a. Causes listed are based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecified nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and are recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process.
b. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data. 
c. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
d. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  
e. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication. 
f. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments for detailed information on this issue.
g. n/a Not applicable. COVID-19 mortality emerged in 2020. There are no deaths due to the virus before this date. 

Age-standardised death rates

Age-standardised death rates enable the comparison of death rates over time as they account for changes in the size and age structure of the population. Refer to Mortality tabulations and methodologies, Age-standardised death rates (SDRs) in the Methodology section of this publication for more information.

For age-standardised death rates from 2011 to 2020:

  • Ischaemic heart diseases decreased by 39.7%.
  • There has been a stabilisation in the rate of deaths due to dementia since 2014. 
  • The gap between ischaemic heart diseases and dementia has narrowed. 
  • Cerebrovascular diseases decreased by 34.6%.
  • Malignant neoplasms of trachea, bronchus and lung (lung cancer) and chronic lower respiratory diseases decreased by 19.7% and 16.7%, respectively.
  1. Causes listed are based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information. 
  2. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data. 
  3. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  4. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.
  6. Victorian coroner-referred deaths for Ischaemic heart disease (I20-I25) have been measured on registration year to enable more accurate time-series analysis. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

Years of potential life lost

Years of potential life lost (YPLL) is a measure of premature mortality which weights age at death to gain an estimate of how many years a person would have lived had they not died prematurely. Causes of death with a median age less than the life expectancy will have a higher number of YPLL. When considered in terms of premature mortality, the leading causes of death have a notably different profile. Refer to Mortality tabulations and methodologies - Years of potential life lost (YPLL) in the Methodology section of this publication for more information.

In 2020:

  • Suicide was a leading cause of premature death with 109,525 YPLL. People who died by suicide had a median age at death of 43.5. 
  • Ischaemic heart diseases has the highest number of premature deaths but had the second number of YPLL at 69,449 years. People who died from ischaemic heart diseases had a median age of death of 84.1. 
  • People who die of external causes of death have median ages below the average life expectancy. People who died from Accidental poisoning and Motor vehicle crashes had the 4th and 5th highest YPLL, with median ages at 44.7 and 42.6, respectively.
  1. For information on WHO leading causes and YPLL see Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information.
  2. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data. 
  3. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Data quality, Revisions process in the Methodology of this publication for more information
  4. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  
  5. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication. 
  6. The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies, Leading causes of death in the methodology section of this publication for further details.

Leading causes of death by sex - Males

For the 84,588 males who died in 2020: 

  • Ischaemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death (10,040 deaths), with almost twice the number of deaths compared with the second ranked cause (dementia). 
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease remains the second leading cause, after overtaking lung cancer in 2019.
  • Prostate cancer, was the sixth leading cause of death and second leading cause of cancer deaths. 
  • Suicide was the 10th leading cause. More than three-quarters (75.9%) of people who died from suicide were male. 
  • 438 males died from COVID-19, which was the 37th leading cause of death. 

For males from 2011 to 2020

  • The death rate for Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease increased by 14.1%.
  • The death rate for lung cancer decreased by 27.6%.
Leading causes of death, males, Australia - selected years - 2011, 2015, 2019, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)
Cause of death and ICD-10 code2011201520192020Rank (2020)
no.Rateno.Rateno.Rateno.Rate
Top 20 leading causes of death and ICD code
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)11,741107.611,17289.310,82276.010,04068.21
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30)3,26731.24,38035.65,42438.15,25035.62
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)4,96243.84,99239.25,19035.94,75131.73
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)4,42441.44,36535.24,08928.83,97427.14
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)3,48032.24,11933.04,24229.63,70624.95
Malignant neoplasm of prostate (C61)3,29430.63,19725.63,61125.23,56823.96
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0)2,77924.82,94423.32,93220.52,89919.77
Diabetes (E10-E14)2,17819.92,48419.92,73119.12,87019.48
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)2,23820.22,53220.22,78319.52,80218.99
Intentional self-harm [suicide] (X60-X84, Y87.0) (g)1,81216.22,32919.72,50219.82,38418.610
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)1,58214.91,55312.61,83712.91,86512.611
Accidental falls (W00-W19)9108.51,2239.91,64711.61,73411.812
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)1,21810.71,43511.21,69911.81,69411.413
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)1,46313.71,51012.21,60011.31,47210.014
Malignant neoplasm of liver and intrahepatic bile ducts (C22)9808.51,2229.51,46010.01,4689.715
Melanoma and other malignant neoplasms of skin  (C43-C44)1,42612.81,45911.61,4069.91,4319.716
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)1,0879.31,2409.71,3629.81,3799.617
Parkinson's disease (G20)8017.61,0708.81,3329.41,2558.518
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)1,13310.71,32810.71,80012.71,0937.419
Malignant neoplasm of oesophagus (C15)9027.89497.41,0367.11,0246.920
Other selected causes not in top 20 leading causes
COVID-19 (U071, U072)n/an/an/an/an/an/a4383.037

a. For information on WHO leading causes and age-standardised death rates see Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information.
b. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
c. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  
d. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data. 
e. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication. 
f. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information. 
g. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

Leading causes of death by sex - Females

For the 76,712 females who died in 2020: 

  • Dementia including Alzheimer's was the leading cause of death (9,325 deaths). 
  • Dementia mortality increased by 14.1% over the last decade. Close to two-thirds of people who died from dementia were female. 
  • Ischaemic heart diseases were the second leading cause with 6,547 deaths. The rate of death from heart disease has decreased by 45.5% since 2011.
  • Breast cancer was the sixth leading cause overall and second leading cause of cancer deaths with 3,110 deaths. Breast cancer is the leading cause of premature death for women.
  • 460 females died from COVID-19, which was the 32nd leading cause of death.
Leading causes of death, females, Australia - selected years - 2011, 2015, 2019, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)
Cause of death and ICD-10 code2011201520192020Rank (2020)
no.Rateno.Rateno.Rateno.Rate
Top 20 leading causes of death and ICD code
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30)6,59738.38,25543.39,59246.19,32543.71
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)9,78559.38,73948.07,42237.76,54732.32
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)6,82141.56,50235.75,80229.65,49627.43
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)3,15523.73,47823.63,63122.03,70621.64
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)3,08521.23,89823.94,13023.13,39618.55
Malignant neoplasms of breast (C50)2,91521.92,93920.13,23020.03,11018.76
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0)2,42717.12,60516.82,47814.22,58414.57
Diabetes (E10-E14)2,03313.42,20613.22,23612.12,27812.08
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)1,80211.11,89310.42,06610.42,15410.59
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)1,74112.51,88412.22,01011.61,95210.910
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)2,02311.92,04810.82,04810.01,7778.411
Accidental falls (W00-W19)9625.81,3917.71,6518.21,6618.112
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)1,1988.71,3298.71,5088.91,5508.813
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47-I49)1,0226.11,4867.81,4587.01,4586.814
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)1,2037.01,4707.81,3336.51,3216.315
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)1,3548.01,7419.32,32411.41,1945.716
Malignant neoplasm of ovary (C56)9036.89306.31,0816.69445.617
Nonrheumatic valve disorders (I34-I38)7754.78984.99204.68884.318
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)5054.06284.67494.88075.219
Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (M00-M99)7925.18595.08944.77994.120
Other selected causes not in top 20 leading causes
COVID-19 (U071, U072)n/an/an/an/an/an/a4602.232

a. For information on WHO leading causes and age-standardised death rates see Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information.
b. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.
c. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  
d. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data. 
e. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication. 
f. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information. 
g. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

Leading causes of death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2020, there were 4,063 deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2,216 males and 1,847 females) in Australia.

  • Their median age at death was 61.8 years.
  • Ischaemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death (445 deaths). 
  • There were no deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from COVID-19.
Deaths and Age-Standardised rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, all jurisdictions, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)
MaleFemalePersons
No.RateNo.RateNo.Rate
New South Wales642896.9513710.21,155799.3
Victoria195np146np341np
Queensland5981,108.3499861.41,097975.7
South Australia1331,222.693872.22261,034.1
Western Australia3401,374.42861,102.26261,230.1
Tasmania55np33np88np
Northern Territory2391,265.22681,224.55071,244.2
Australian Capital Territory12np9np21np

np not available for publication

  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  3. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  4. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
  5. Total includes deaths in 'Other Territories". 

Leading causes of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by five jurisdictions: NSW, Qld, WA, SA, NT

Measures of mortality relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are key inputs into the Closing the Gap strategy. This strategy aims to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to overcome inequality and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians across areas such as life expectancy, mortality, education and employment.  In July 2020 all Australian governments committed to 17 targets under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (Australian Government, 2020). Mortality data will continue to be a key indicator to measure progress against these targets.  

Methods for reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths: Data reported in the remainder of this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. These jurisdictions have been found to have a higher quality of identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin allowing more robust analysis of data. Data for those with a usual residence in Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory is unsuitable for comparisons of changes over time, and have been excluded in the remainder of article. Data presented in this release may underestimate the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died. 

For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.

In 2020 there were 3,611 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died across the five jurisdictions. 

  • Their median age at death was 61.6 years. 
  • Ischaemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death for both males and females. 
  • Those who had a usual residence in Northern Territory had the highest mortality rate.

Age-standardised death rates over time

To measure changes over time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, age-standardised death rates for males, females and all persons are presented in the graph below.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died between 2011-2020: 

  • The highest age-standardised death rate (SDR) occurred in 2020 at 966.3 deaths per 100,000 people. 
  • The SDR is consistently higher for males than females.
  • The rate ratio ranged between 1.2 to 1.4 male deaths for every female death.
  • The SDR ranged between 902.6 to 966.3 for all people. 
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  3. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  4. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
  5. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.

Top five leading causes of death of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died between 2011 and 2020: 

  • The five leading causes of death account for over one-third of all deaths. 
  • The five leading causes of death have remained the same between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020, with slight changes in ranking. 
  • The age-standardised death rate decreased for the first and second leading causes of death (Ischaemic heart diseases and Diabetes) between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020. 
  • Intentional self-harm remains the fifth leading cause of death in 2020.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females who died between 2011 and 2020: 

  • In 2020, four of the five leading causes of death are the same for males and females, with slight changes in ranking.
  • Suicide was the second leading cause of death for males compared to 10th for females. 
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease was the fifth leading cause of death for females and the 13th leading cause for males.
  • Smoking related lung diseases increased for both males and females. When comparing 2011-15 with 2016-2020, there was a 16.3% increase in lung cancer death rates for males and a 26.0% increase in chronic lower respiratory disease death rates for females. 
Top five leading causes of death, age-standardised death rates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2010-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)
Cause of death and ICD code2011201520202011-20152016-2020
 No.Rate(b)(c)No.Rate(b)(c)No.Rate(b)(c)Rate(b)(c)Rate(b)(c)
Persons        
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)332133.7404133.5401112.2128.1113.9
Diabetes mellitus (E10-E14)18280.619771.4266

74.8

81.175.4
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)13462.317666.724574.966.378.3
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)12856.815451.620956.454.159.3
Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y87.0)(e)13622.615424.219727.922.225.6
All Causes2,387917.02,879920.73,611966.3918.8938.9
Males        
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)218182.6264185.9247145.6172.5145.2
Intentional self-harm (X60-X84,Y87.0)(e)9631.711137.014742.932.539.0
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)6877.29174.313387.279.486.6
Diabetes mellitus (E10-E14)9291.09669.812281.579.975.4
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)6771.78865.010965.962.672.8
All Causes1,3121,083.71,5911,050.51,9521,074.71,045.41,054.7
Females        
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)11494.0140.091.415484.392.187.1
Diabetes mellitus (E10-E14)9073.210171.614470.681.875.5
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)6652.68560.711264.657.272.1
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)6146.56640.410049.047.548.6
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30)3549.44751.77666.448.060.5
All Causes1,075786.91,288809.41,659869.4812.7836.2
  1. Causes listed are the top 5 leading causes of death for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths registered in 2020, based on WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information.
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information. 
  3. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  6. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  7. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
  8. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.  

Leading causes of death by Indigenous status

Mortality data can provide important insights into population health concerns relevant to different groups within the Australian population. Patterns of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people differ considerably to those of non-Indigenous people. Mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are generally higher than those for non-Indigenous people. The median age at death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 61.6 years in 2020, compared to 81.8 for the non-indigenous population.

Among the top 20 leading causes of death in 2020:

  • Age standardised death rates are higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for all 20 leading causes of death, except for blood cancers.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had rates five times higher than non-Indigenous people for diabetes, and three times higher for chronic lower respiratory diseases, liver diseases and urinary diseases. 
Top 20 leading causes of death, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-indigenous people, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)(i)(j)(k)(l)
Cause of Death and ICD CodeAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander no. deathsAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rate (b)(f)Non-Indigenous no. deathsNon-Indigenous Rate (b)(f)Rate Ratio (g)(l)Rate Difference (h)(l)
All causes3,611966.3109,325502.21.9464.1
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)401112.211,23050.82.261.4
Diabetes (E10-E14)26674.83,36015.24.959.6
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)24574.94,88321.83.453.1
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)20956.45,87026.22.230.2
Intentional self-harm [suicide] (X60-X84, Y87.0) (c)19727.92,06811.82.416.1
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)13744.56,55629.61.514.9
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30)11153.310,25245.91.27.4
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)11122.21,4617.13.215.2
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)11036.3261111.73.124.6
Land transport accidents (V01-V89, Y85) (d)9913.38364.72.88.6
Accidental poisoning (X40-X49)8013.48084.72.88.7
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0) (e)7725.93,75517.21.58.7
Malignant neoplasm of liver and intrahepatic bile ducts (C22)6717.31,5176.82.510.5
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)6315.1221110.01.55.1
Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)634.93322.22.32.7
Malignant neoplasms of breast (C50)5717.02,13110.01.76.9
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)5114.93,31515.01.0
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)4415.81,9939.01.86.8
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)3812.21,4686.61.95.6
Cardiomyopathy (I42)378.16873.22.54.9
  1. Causes listed are the top 20 leading causes of death for 2020, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecified nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process.
  2. Standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  4. The data presented for Land transport accidents includes ICD-10 codes V01-V89 and Y85. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies for further information.
  5. The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. For more information see Mortality tabulations and methodologies
  6. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
  7. The rate ratio is the rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons divided by the non-Indigenous rate.
  8. The rate difference is the rate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons less the non-Indigenous rate.
  9. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
  10. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology for more information
  11. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
  12. Rate ratio and rate difference is calculated on unrounded data and may look inconsistent with the rounded rates presented.

Intentional self-harm deaths (Suicide) in Australia

During 2020:

  • 3,139 people died by suicide.
  • The age-standardised suicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000 people. 
  • Suicide was the 15th leading cause of death.

Suicide by sex 

In order to measure changes in suicide over time, age-standardised suicide rates for males, females and all persons are presented in the graph below. Upper and lower bounds (confidence intervals) are included to show the potential variability of the annual suicide rates and can be used in measuring statistical significance in annual rate change.

In 2020 there were 2,384 males who died by suicide.

  • Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death.
  • Their median age at death was 43.6 years. 
  • Three quarters of people who died by suicide were male. 
  • The suicide rate for males decreased by 6.1% from 2019.  
  • The suicide rate for males increased between 2011 and 2020 from 16.2 to 18.6 deaths per 100,000.

In 2020 there were 755 females who died by suicide.

  • Suicide was the 22nd leading cause of death. 
  • Their median age at death was 43.1 years. 
  • The suicide rate for females decreased by 7.9% from 2019. 
  • The suicide rate for females increased between 2011 and 2020 from 5.1 to 5.8 deaths per 100,000.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.   
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data
  5. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide by states and territory of usual residence

Administrative factors

When considering changes in counts or rates of suicide deaths for particular jurisdictions it is important to understand the range of administrative factors which can influence the flow of data. Lags between when deaths occur and when they are registered can influence the count of deaths, while the flow of information between Coroners courts, Registries, the National Coronial Information System and the ABS can influence what information is available to specify a particular cause of death. For more information see the sub-sections Data collection and Mortality coding, Coding of coroner certified deaths in the Methodology section of this publication.

  • All states except Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory had decreases in the number of suicides between 2019 and 2020.
  • Almost three-quarters of people who died by suicide had a usual residence in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
  • Those living in the Northern Territory had the highest suicide rate at 20.4 per 100,000 people. 
  • The national suicide rate at 12.1 per 100,000 people was the lowest since 2016.
Number of suicide deaths, by state or territory of usual residence, 2011-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)
2011 No.2012 No.2013 No.2014 No.2015 No.2016 No.2017 No.2018 No.2019 No.2020 No.
NSW617727718832839822929938937876
Vic(d)526514533658678637713691717694
Qld578631676658761688815796784759
SA212198203243234221226209251234
WA309367336367402373418384418381
Tas.747174698493797810887
NT44483356484651475051
ACT33243738462859485357
Australia2,3932,5802,6102,9223,0932,9093,2913,1923,3183,139
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.   
  3. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data
  4. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  5. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
Age-standardised suicide rate, by state or territory of usual residence, 2011-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)
2011 Rate2012 Rate2013 Rate2014 Rate2015 Rate2016 Rate2017 Rate2018 Rate2019 Rate2020 Rate
NSW8.49.89.510.810.910.511.611.511.410.5
Vic (e)9.29.08.910.911.110.111.110.510.710.1
Qld12.913.914.614.016.014.216.516.015.414.7
SA12.911.711.914.413.313.012.911.913.913.3
WA12.915.013.514.515.614.516.214.716.014.3
Tas.14.113.714.212.816.217.115.314.519.515.9
NT18.519.114.221.820.319.220.219.521.020.4
ACT9.36.29.69.811.47.214.311.212.413.1
Australia10.511.211.112.312.911.913.212.612.912.1
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.   
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data
  5. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide by age

The following sections cover various age and sex breakdowns of suicide. Understanding how suicide manifests across these key demographics is important in helping to target policies and prevention activities. 

The graph below shows the age distribution for those who died by suicide and provides an insight into the proportion of those deaths that occurred within each age cohort. 

  • Young and middle aged people are more likely to die by suicide than those in older age cohorts.
  • 83.6 percent of people who died by suicide are aged under 65 years.
  • People who died by suicide had a median age of 43.5 years compared to 81.7 years for all deaths.
  • Over one-third of deaths in 15-24 year olds are due to suicide.
  • The age distribution of suicide is similar for males and females. 
  1. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology in this publication.
  2. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  4. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide by age and sex: age-specific death rates

Age-specific death rates show how suicide manifests across age cohorts by relating the number of deaths to the size and structure of the underlying population.

Males aged over 85 years:

  • Had the highest age-specific suicide rate.
  • Accounted for the smallest proportion (3.1%) of suicides of males. 

Males aged between 40 - 54 years: 

  • Have the highest age-specific suicide rates of those aged under 85 years.
  • Accounted for over one quarter (26.7%) of suicides of males. 

Females aged 45-49 years:

  • Had the highest female age-specific suicide rate.
  • Accounted for the highest proportion (10.9%) of suicides of females.
  1. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology in this publication.
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Age-specific death rates reflect the number of deaths for a specific age group, expressed per 100,000 of the estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year) of that same age group (see the Glossary in this publication for further information). 
  4. Suicide deaths in the 0-14 year age group have been excluded because of the small number of deaths that occur within this age group.
  5. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide and premature mortality

Years of potential life lost (YPLL) measures the extent of 'premature' mortality, which is assumed to be any death between the ages of 1-78 years inclusive, and aids in assessing the significance of specific diseases or trauma as a cause of premature death. YPLL weights age at death to gain an estimate of how many years a person would have lived had they not died prematurely. See Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of methodology for further information.

Suicide accounted for the highest number of years of potential life lost among leading cause groups of conditions. This is due to the high proportion of suicides that occur within younger age groups. Conditions such as coronary heart disease account for more premature deaths than suicide, but less years of potential life lost.

In 2020:

  • Suicide was the leading cause of death for 15-44 year olds. 
  • Suicide was a leading cause of premature mortality with 109,525 years of life lost.
  • A person who died by suicide lost on average 34.9 years of life. 

Suicides of children

Deaths of children by suicide is an extremely sensitive issue. The number of deaths of children attributed to suicide can be influenced by coronial reporting practices. Reporting practices may lead to differences in counts across jurisdictions and this should be taken into account when interpreting tabulations and analysis of suicide deaths in children presented below. For more information on issues associated with the compilation and interpretation of suicide data, see Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication. For the purposes of the following analysis, children are defined as those aged between 5 and 17 years of age. The ABS is not aware of any recorded suicides of children under the age of 5 years. The tabulation below shows the number and age-specific death rate for children who died by suicide over the last five years. 

In 2020, for children who died by suicide:

  • There were 99 suicides of children. 
  • Suicide remained the leading cause of death of children in Australia. 
  • Males had a suicide rate of 2.9 per 100,000 children (61 deaths).
  • Females had a suicide rate of 1.9 per 100,000 children (38 deaths). 
  • Over 73% of children who died by suicide were aged between 15 and 17 years. 
  • Suicides rates differed by jurisdiction of usual residence. Children in the Northern Territory had the highest suicide rate. See Datacube 11 for more information. 
Suicide of children aged 5-17 years, 2016-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)
Age group (years)2016201620172017201820182019201920202020
No./proportionRate (f)No./proportionRate (f)No./proportionRate (f)No./proportionRate (f)No./proportionRate (f)
5-17 years
MalesSuicide643.2673.3633.1633.0612.9
All causes28014.127113.426412.927513.228613.6
Proportion (g)22.9n/a24.7n/a23.9n/a22.9n/a21.3n/a
FemalesSuicide281.5351.8382.0331.7381.9
All causes1618.619810.41869.61859.41768.8
Proportion (g)17.4n/a17.7n/a20.4n/a17.8n/a21.6n/a
PersonsSuicide922.41022.61012.5962.4992.4
All causes44111.446911.945011.346011.446211.3
Proportion (g)20.9n/a21.7n/a22.4n/a20.9n/a21.4n/a
All ages (h)
All causes2,90911.93,29113.23,19212.63,31812.93,13912.1

n/a Not Applicable
a.  All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
b.  The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
c.  See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data
d.  Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
e.  Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information.
f.  Child rates are expressed as age-specific death rates. The number of deaths for a specific age group, expressed per 100,000 of the estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year) of that same age group. See the Glossary in this publication for further information.
g.  Intentional self-harm deaths as a proportion of all deaths in the 5-17 year age group.
h.  All ages rates are expressed as age-standardised rates. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.

Suicide of children: Sex ratio

The sex ratio for children aged 5-17 years was 1.6 males per female death. This compared to a sex ratio of 3.2 for people of all ages who died by suicide. 

  1. Sex ratios for suicide, defined as the number of male suicides per female suicide.
  2. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised) ,2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  4. See the Data quality section of the methodology for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2020 data.
  5. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Risk factors for suicide

Circumstances relating to a suicide are complex and multifaceted. It is the combination of multiple factors rather than a single reason that contribute to a person dying by suicide. Risk factors should not be considered in isolation. 

The ABS codes causes of death from information contained on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS), including police, pathology, toxicology and coroners reports. These reports provide a breadth of information relating to these deaths, much of which is highly important from a public health perspective. As part of the investigative process for a suicide risk factors are often mentioned in these reports. For suicide, a risk factor could be one of many factors including mental health conditions, lifestyle factors, or chronic diseases that can interact and increase the "risk" of suicide. While a risk factor may have been present in the life of a person who died by suicide it may not have been a direct cause. Risk factors provide important insights that can help guide prevention and intervention activities.

The risk factors mentioned in the reports on the NCIS are captured as part of the ABS coding process and assigned codes within the framework of the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision. It is important to note that the capture of information on associated causes of death is reliant on the documentation available for any given death. This in turn can be affected by the length of the coronial process, the type of information available across different jurisdictions and administrative processes affecting report availability. As such, the information presented in this section reflects information contained within reports available on NCIS at the time of coding and does not necessarily reflect all causes associated with all suicides that have occurred. Risk factors are included and made available as part of the associated causes in the national mortality dataset.  

In 2020: 

  • Over 90% of people who died by suicide had at least one risk factor reported. 
  • Psychosocial risk factors were the most commonly reported risk factor. 
  • Both mental and behavioural disorders and psychosocial risk factors were present in over two-thirds of deaths of people who died by suicide. 
  • People who died by suicide had an average of 3-4 risk factors mentioned. 
Risk factor prevalence, suicides, Australia, 2017-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)
2017 No.2017 Proportion2018 No.2018 Proportion2019 No.2019 Proportion2020 No.2020 Proportion
Total suicides3,291100.03,192100.03,318100.03,139100.0
Total suicides with reported mental and behavioural disorder (d)2,36771.92,22369.62,10963.62,05865.6
Total suicides with reported natural disease (e)1,74653.11,83357.41,78253.71,73755.3
Total suicides with reported psychosocial risk factors (f)2,33871.02,31272.42,12464.02,10667.1
Total suicides with any associated cause reported3,19297.02,99493.82,98590.02,84990.8
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2016 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2017 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified risk factor recorded. Risk factors may not be mutually exclusive, and therefore people with multiple psychosocial factors recorded will be counted in more than one category.
  4. Mental and behavioural disorder includes ICD-10 codes F00-F99.
  5. Natural disease includes all disease and health related conditions with the exclusion of mental and behavioural disorders, injuries, external causes and some terminal conditions (G93, J96, I46, I49). Includes ICD-10 codes A00-E90, G00-R99, U071-U072, U08-U09.
  6. For further information on psychosocial risk factors as associated causes, see Associated causes of death in mortality in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019. 
  7. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

Suicide risk factors by age and sex

Risk factors can vary by socio-economic demographics including age and sex. Understanding this can help for targeted suicide prevention and intervention initiatives to be implemented. The ten most common risk factors for selected ages, males and females are presented in the tables. 

Suicide risk factors by age

In 2020:

  • Mood disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor to be mentioned in all age groups (except those aged 5-24 years).
  • Younger people were more likely to have issues with substance use (both acute toxicity and chronic use) mentioned as a risk factor. 
  • For those aged 85 years and over, limitation of activities due to illness and disability were the most common associated cause.
  • Older people had a higher proportion of chronic health conditions such as cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes as a risk factor than younger people.  
  • Those aged 25-64 years were more likely to have problems related to un/employment mentioned as a risk factor than other ages. 
Top 10 risk factors by age, proportion of total suicides, by age group, Persons, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)(i)
Risk factor and ICD-10 code5-24 years25-44 years45-64 years65-84 years85 years +All ages
Mood disorders (F30-F39)36.338.944.940.031.940.3
Acute substance use or intoxication (e)38.537.725.88.86.429.3
Suicide ideation (R458)26.024.921.821.322.323.5
Problems in spousal relationship circumstances (Z630, Z635)24.031.021.59.51.123.2
Chronic substance use disorder (f)22.931.421.98.1-23.1
Personal history of self-harm (Z915)27.925.820.915.69.622.7
Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48) (g)19.617.619.314.29.617.7
Problems related to legal circumstances (Z650-Z654)7.716.010.95.02.111.2
Problems related to employment and unemployment (Z56)7.312.412.82.6-10.1
Family issues (Z631-Z633, Z636-Z639)11.910.09.07.111.79.7
Death of a family member (Z634, Z818)9.06.67.814.020.28.7
Problems related to economic circumstances (Z594-Z598)2.55.09.94.7-6.0
Limitation of activities due to disability (Z736)0.20.84.020.137.25.4
Pain (h)0.82.96.812.19.65.3
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)-0.96.112.120.24.5
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)-0.93.413.512.83.6
Diabetes mellitus (E10-E14)0.41.63.79.010.63.3
Malignant neoplasms  (C00-C97, D45-D46, D47.1, D47.3-D47.5)-0.33.010.920.23.1
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47-I49)--0.21.79.60.6
  1. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology in this publication.
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. The top ten multiple causes were captured for each age group then combined into one list, therefore the number of causes listed in the table is more than 10.
  4. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified risk factor recorded. Risk factors may not be mutually exclusive, and therefore people with multiple psychosocial factors recorded will be counted in more than one category. 
  5. Includes intoxication of psychoactive substances (F100, F110, F120, F130, F140, F150, F160, F170, F180, F190) and Findings of drugs and other substances, not normally found in blood (R78).
  6. Includes F101-F109, F111-F119, F121-F129, F131-F139, F141-F149, F151-F159, F161-F169, F171-F179, F181-F189, F191-F199.
  7. Excludes F454 Persistant somatoform pain disorder (F454 is included in the Pain grouping where data exists).
  8. Pain includes M255, M54, M796, N23, R07, R10, R52.
  9. For further information on psychosocial risk factors as associated causes, see Associated causes of death in mortality in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019. 

Suicide risk factors for males

In 2020 for males who died by suicide: 

  • Mood disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor for all males. 
  • For those aged under 44 years presence of alcohol and drugs (including intoxication) was the most common risk factor. 
  • Issues in spousal relationships was the third most common risk factor for males compared to seventh for females.
  • Males across all ages had a history of suicide ideation or self-harm. 
Top 10 risk factors by age, proportion of total suicides, by age group, Males, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)(i)
Risk factor and ICD-10 code5-24 years25-44 years45-64 years65-84 years85 years +All ages
Mood disorders (F30-F39)34.137.144.137.729.738.7
Acute substance use or intoxication (e)39.840.528.79.18.131.5
Problems in spousal relationship circumstances (Z630, Z635)23.932.023.811.91.424.5
Chronic substance use disorder (f)22.533.722.69.7-24.2
Suicide ideation (R458)24.724.623.319.217.623.3
Personal history of self-harm (Z915)23.922.517.712.910.819.5
Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48) (g)17.015.917.613.26.816.0
Problems related to legal circumstances (Z650-Z654)9.118.112.56.62.712.9
Problems related to employment and unemployment (Z56)9.313.514.63.5-11.5
Family issues (Z631-Z633, Z636-Z639)11.310.37.57.912.29.3
Death of a family member (Z634, Z818)7.46.57.512.620.38.2
Problems related to economic circumstances (Z594-Z598)3.05.511.05.7-6.7
Limitation of activities due to disability (Z736)0.30.84.219.836.55.5
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)-1.06.512.918.94.7
Pain (h)-1.96.911.98.14.7
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)-1.03.314.512.23.7
Diabetes mellitus (E10-E14)0.31.63.610.713.53.6
Malignant neoplasms  (C00-C97, D45-D46, D47.1, D47.3-D47.5)-0.23.212.623.03.5
  1. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology in this publication.
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. The top ten multiple causes were captured for each age group then combined into one list, therefore the number of causes listed in the table is more than 10.
  4. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified risk factor recorded. Risk factors may not be mutually exclusive, and therefore people with multiple psychosocial factors recorded will be counted in more than one category. 
  5. Includes intoxication of psychoactive substances (F100, F110, F120, F130, F140, F150, F160, F170, F180, F190) and Findings of drugs and other substances, not normally found in blood (R78).
  6. Includes F101-F109, F111-F119, F121-F129, F131-F139, F141-F149, F151-F159, F161-F169, F171-F179, F181-F189, F191-F199.
  7. Excludes F454 Persistant somatoform pain disorder (F454 is included in the Pain grouping where data exists).
  8. Pain includes M255, M54, M796, N23, R07, R10, R52.
  9. For further information on psychosocial risk factors as associated causes, see Associated causes of death in mortality in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019. 

Suicide risk factors for females

In 2020 for females who died by suicide:

  • Mood disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor, being captured as a risk factor in over 40% of suicides across all age groups.
  • Over 40% of those aged 5-24 years had a history of self-harm as a risk factor. 
  • Death of a family member or friend was a risk factor across all ages with the youngest and oldest age groups having the highest proportion. 
  • Personality disorders was the 10th most common risk factor for females, compared to the 29th for males. 
Top 10 risk factors by age, proportion of total suicides, by age group, Females, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)(i)(j)(k)
Risk factor and ICD-10 code5-24 years25-44 years45-64 years65 years and over (e)All ages
Mood disorders (F30-F39)43.144.247.446.045.3
Personal history of self-harm (Z915)40.536.131.321.032.8
Suicide ideation (R458)30.225.617.029.824.4
Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48) (f)27.622.824.817.723.3
Acute substance use or intoxication (g)34.529.116.16.522.3
Chronic substance use disorder (h)24.124.619.62.419.3
Problems in spousal relationship circumstances (Z630, Z635)24.128.113.91.618.8
Family issues (Z631-Z633, Z636-Z639)13.89.113.95.610.7
Death of a family member (Z634, Z818)13.86.78.718.510.3
Disorders of adult personality and behaviour (F60-F69)(i)6.010.56.11.67.0
Pain (j)3.46.06.512.96.9
Problems related to legal circumstances (Z650-Z654)3.49.55.7-5.8
Problems related to employment and unemployment (Z56)0.99.17.0-5.7
Limitation of activities due to disability (Z736)-0.73.024.25.2
Unspecified mental disorder (F99)6.03.97.43.25.2
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)1.72.13.910.54.0
Problems related to negative life events in childhood and upbringing (Z61-Z62)10.33.52.61.64.0
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)-0.44.812.13.6
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)-0.43.511.33.0
  1. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology in this publication.
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. The top ten multiple causes were captured for each age group then combined into one list, therefore the number of causes listed in the table is more than 10.
  4. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified risk factor recorded. Risk factors may not be mutually exclusive, and therefore people with multiple psychosocial factors recorded will be counted in more than one category. 
  5. Age grouping to 65 years and over to increase robustness of data.
  6. Excludes F454 Persistant somatoform pain disorder (F454 is included in the Pain grouping where data exists).
  7. Includes intoxication of psychoactive substances (F100, F110, F120, F130, F140, F150, F160, F170, F180, F190) and Findings of drugs and other substances, not normally found in blood (R78).
  8. Includes F101-F109, F111-F119, F121-F129, F131-F139, F141-F149, F151-F159, F161-F169, F171-F179, F181-F189, F191-F199.
  9. Excludes F628 Other enduring personality changes (F628 is included in the Pain grouping where data exists).
  10. Pain includes M255, M54,R10, R52.
  11. For further information on psychosocial risk factors as associated causes, see Associated causes of death in mortality in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019.

Suicide risk factor by year

Psychosocial risk factors have been coded by the ABS since 2017. The addition of psychosocial factors to the national mortality dataset added to information on risk factors that were already captured such as mental health disorders and chronic diseases. Over these four years, there have been small changes to the capture of information for specific codes, mostly those relating to psychosocial risk factors. As many coronial investigations in 2017 are now closed, data for that year is considered "final" (see revisions section in methodology for more information). Information on risk factors across the four years is presented below.

For suicides across 2017-2020:

  • Risk factors were identified in 97.0% of suicides in 2017 where coronial investigations have been completed and the data is now final. The proportion of risk factors present for other years is likely to increase as investigations are finalised. 
  • Mood disorders were the most common risk factor for each year. 
  • Presence of alcohol and drugs (including intoxication) were the second most common risk factor for each year. 
  • Suicide ideation has been captured in a higher proportion of deaths by suicide in 2020. 
  • Problems in spousal relationship circumstances and previous history of self harm are the two most common psychosocial risk factor identified each year.
Ranking of associated causes, number and proportion of suicides, 2017-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)
2017 No.2017 Proportion2017 Rank2018 No.2018 Proportion2018 Rank2019 No.2019 Proportion2019 Rank2020 No.2020 Proportion2020 Rank
Total suicides3,291100.0-3,192100.0-3,318100.0-3,139100.0-
Mood disorders (F30-F39)1,60748.811,47546.211,34640.611,26540.31
Acute substance use or intoxication (d)95829.121,00031.3294828.6291929.32
Suicide ideation (R458)74922.8674523.3672021.7573923.53
Problems in spousal relationship circumstances (Z630, Z635)86826.4485526.8385825.9372723.24
Chronic substance use disorder (e)90027.3385126.7475422.7472423.15
Personal history of self-harm (Z915)81424.7578924.7568820.7671422.76
Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48) (f)72422.0762219.5761118.4755717.77
Problems related to legal circumstances (Z650-Z654)33810.3112909.1113289.9835211.28
Problems related to employment and unemployment (Z56)35510.8834010.792577.71131610.19
Family issues (Z631-Z633, Z636-Z639)34110.41036911.682778.3103039.710
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified risk factor recorded. Risk factors may not be mutually exclusive, and therefore people with multiple psychosocial factors recorded will be counted in more than one category.
  4. Includes intoxication of psychoactive substances (F100, F110, F120, F130, F140, F150, F160, F170, F180, F190) and Findings of drugs and other substances, not normally found in blood (R78).
  5. Includes F101-F109, F111-F119, F121-F129, F131-F139, F141-F149, F151-F159, F161-F169, F171-F179, F181-F189, F191-F199.
  6. Excludes F454 Persistant somatoform pain disorder (F454 is included in the Pain grouping where data exists).
  7. For further information on psychosocial risk factors as associated causes, see Associated causes of death in mortality in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019. 
  8. Care needs to be taken when interpreting data derived from Victorian coroner-referred deaths including suicide. See Technical note: Victorian additional registrations and time series adjustments in Causes of death, Australia, 2019, for detailed information on this issue.

For more information on associated causes for suicide deaths, see Tables 11.17 - 11.21 in Data Cube 11 in this publication.

Suicide in the COVID-19 pandemic

The impact of COVID-19 on mortality has been of high importance since the start of the pandemic, including deaths from the virus itself as well as non-COVID-19 diseases, suicides, accidents and assaults. For some individuals the effects of COVID-19 on the economy (e.g, changes in employment), the health system (e.g. changes in access to the health system and temporary cessation of elective surgery) and social contact (e.g. social isolation) could lead to risk factors for ill health (including suicide) to increase. While there was a 5.4% reduction in the number of suicides from 2019 to 2020, there were 99 people who died by suicide who had the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned in either a police, pathology or coronial finding report. For people who died by suicide and had the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned as a risk factor, it did not appear as an isolated risk. 

When COVID-19 was mentioned as a risk factor it manifested in different ways for individuals. For some people direct impacts from the pandemic such as job loss, lack of financial security, family and relationship pressures and not feeling comfortable with accessing health care were noted. For others, a general concern or anxiety about the pandemic and societal changes were stated or anxiety about contracting the virus itself. The ICD-10 codes assigned by the ABS was dependant on how the risk factor was described as part of the coronial investigation. The table below outlines the three ICD-10 codes used by the ABS to capture different scenarios where the COVID-19 pandemic was stated to be a risk factor for an individual. 

ICD-10 codes for capture of COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor
ICD-10 codeICD-10 code name descriptionDescription of use and inclusion terms
F41.8Other specified anxiety disorders

Pandemic related anxiety and stress.

Includes:  Pandemic and COVID-19 related anxieties, worries, fixations and other psychological manifestations.

Z29.0Isolation

The individual was in isolation or quarantine (hotel or home).

Excl: Social isolation (Z60.4)

Z29.9Prophylactic measure, unspecified

Measures put in place through health directives. 

Includes: closure of business, stay at home measures. 

Note: Where other circumstances or risk factors were as a result of the health directive, both codes are captured and should be considered in combination e.g. Job loss due to closure of workplace as a result of lockdown, both Z56.2 (Threatened or actual job loss) and Z29.9 Prophylactic (measure, unspecified) are captured.

Capture of lockdown only where information in reports explicitly states the lockdown contributed to the death, or  as above where lockdown resulted in other risk factor (e.g. job loss or other work-related issues). Deaths where the region was in lockdown at the time of death, but the lockdown has not been stated in reports as contributing to the death, do not capture this code.

 

COVID-19 as a risk factor for suicide

For the 99 people who died by suicide with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor: 

  • 3.2% of all suicides had issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic noted as a risk factor. 
  • Had on average 5 risk factors. 
  • Had on average 3 psychosocial risk factors.

The table below shows the frequency of co-occurring risk factors alongside the frequency of issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Categories are not mutually exclusive and an individual may appear in multiple categories. 

For the 99 people who died by suicide with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor: 

  • Almost 60% of people had both mood disorders (including depression) and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor.  
  • Over 50% of people had both problems related to un/employment and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor. 
  • There were 25 people who had both problems related to the social environment including social isolation and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor.  
Co-occurring associated causes for suicides with the COVID-19 pandemic identified as a risk factor, 2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)(i)
Associated causeNumberProportion of suicides (d)
Suicides with COVID-19 identified as a risk factor (F418, Z290, Z299)99100.0
Mood disorders (F30-F39)5858.6
Problems related to employment and unemployment (Z56)5252.5
Acute substance use or intoxication (e)2727.3
Problems related to social environment (Z60)2525.3
Suicide ideation (R458)2424.2
Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48) (f)2424.2
Problems in spousal relationship circumstances (Z630, Z635)2323.2
Chronic substance use disorder (g)2121.2
Problems related to economic circumstances (Z594-Z598)2121.2
History of self harm (Z915)1818.2
Family issues (Z631-Z633, Z636-Z639)1515.2
Death of a family member (Z634, Z818)1414.1
Pain (h)66.1
Schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders (F20-F29)66.1
  1. Causes of death data for 2020 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See the Data quality section of the methodology in this publication.
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified risk factor recorded. Risk factors may not be mutually exclusive, and therefore people with multiple psychosocial factors recorded will be counted in more than one category. 
  4. Proportion of number of suicides with COVID-19 identified as a risk factor. This includes suicides with an associated cause of F418, Z290, Z299
  5. Includes intoxication of psychoactive substances (F100, F110, F120, F130, F140, F150, F160, F170, F180, F190) and Findings of drugs and other substances, not normally found in blood (R78).
  6. Excludes F418 Other specified anxiety disorders and F454 Persistant somatoform pain disorder (F454 is included in the Pain grouping where data exists).
  7. Includes F101-F109, F111-F119, F121-F129, F131-F139, F141-F149, F151-F159, F161-F169, F171-F179, F181-F189, F191-F199.
  8. Pain includes  M545, M549, R522, R529.
  9. For further information on psychosocial risk factors as associated causes, see Associated causes of death in mortality in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019. 

​​​​​​​Crisis helplines

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800

Intentional self-harm deaths (Suicide) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Since 2009, Australian Governments have worked together through the Closing the Gap strategy to overcome inequality across areas such as life expectancy, mortality, education and employment. Measures of mortality relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are key inputs into this strategy. Targets set in 2008 were revised in July 2020, with a reduction in the suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a specific target area. 

In 2020, there were 223 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died by suicide across Australia. 

  • 31.4% had a usual residence in Queensland.
  • The median age of death was 31.3 years. 
  • The number of suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people increased across all jurisdictions, except South Australia and Western Australia, when comparing 2011-15 with 2016-20.
Number of suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by state of usual residence, 2011-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)
20112012201320142015201620172018201920202011-20152016-2020
New South Wales18212523414044485054128236
Victoria86777761013213557
Queensland45315240535153637370221310
South Australia10710107114312104442
Western Australia36343546404727393036191179
Tasmania013013101459
Northern Territory27271829131827213027114123
Australian Capital Territory0434311321510
Australia144128151157164169174185215223744966
  1. Data cells with small values have been randomly assigned to protect the confidentiality of individuals. As a result, some totals will not equal the sum of their components. Cells with a zero value have not been affected by confidentialisation.
  2. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  4. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by five jurisdictions: NSW, Qld, WA, SA, NT

Methods for reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides

Data reported in the remainder of this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. These jurisdictions have been found to have a higher quality of identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin allowing more robust analysis of data. Data for those with a usual residence in Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory is unsuitable for comparisons of changes over time, and have been excluded in the remainder of article. Data presented in this release may underestimate the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died by suicide.

For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.

In 2020, 197 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide across the five jurisdictions. 

  • Their median age was 31.3 years.
  • Suicide was the 5th leading cause of death.
  • Those living in Western Australia had the highest age-standardised suicide rate.

To enable comparison of suicide rates over time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, age-standardised death rates for males, females and all persons are presented in the graph below. Upper and lower bounds (confidence intervals) are included to show the potential variability of the annual suicide rates and can be used in measuring statistical significance in annual rate change.

  • The age-standardised suicide rate was 27.9 deaths per 100,000 persons.
  • The suicide rate for males increased between 2011 and 2020 from 31.7 to 42.9 deaths per 100,000. 
  • The suicide rate for females has remained relatively stable over time.
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  4. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
  5. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by sex

In 2020 there were 147 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males who died by suicide. 

  • Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death.
  • Their median age at death was 31.5 years.
  • Almost three quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died by suicide were male.

In 2020 there were 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females who died by suicide.  

  • Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death.
  • Their median age at death was 31.0 years.
Number of Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by sex, 2011-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)
20112012201320142015201620172018201920202011-20152016-2020
Male9682101104111117125130137147494656
Female40383944434340435850204234
Persons136120140148154160165173195197698890
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
  4. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by state and territory of usual residence

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died by suicide between 2011 and 2020:

  • The suicide rate increased from 22.2 to 25.6 between 2011-15 and 2016-20. 
  • People with a usual residence in New South Wales had a lower suicide rate than those living elsewhere across both periods.
  • Those living in Western Australia recorded the highest suicide rate in both of the two five year periods, but the rates have decreased the most over the same time.
  • Over one third of people who died by suicide during the 2016-20 time period had a usual residence in Queensland.
Age-standardised suicide rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by state or territory of usual residence, 2011-2015 and 2016-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)
2011-2015 No.2011-2015 Rate (c)2016-2020 No.2016-2020 Rate (c)
New South Wales12812.423619.8
Queensland22122.631028.0
South Australia4425.84220.9
Western Australia19139.417933.3
Northern Territory11428.112329.0
Total69822.289025.6
  1. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
  2. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.
  3. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
  4. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
  5. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
  6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

Suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by age

 

    Age-specific suicide rates

    Age-specific death rates provide insights into how suicide manifests across age cohorts by relating the number of deaths to the size and structure of the underlying population.

    For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who died by suicide between 2016-2020:

    • 81.9 percent were aged between 15-44 years.
    • For males, the highest suicide rate was for those aged 35-44 years at 74.1 deaths per 100,000. 
    • For females, the highest suicide rate was for those aged 15-24 years at 26.4 deaths per 100,000.
    1. Age-specific death rate. Deaths per 100,000 of estimated mid-year population for each age group. See Glossary for further information. 
    2. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
    3. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.  
    4. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
    5. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
    6. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 

    Suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children- 5-17 years

    During the period 2016-2020:

    • Suicide was the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
    • Almost one-third (31.9%) of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were due to suicide. 
    • Over 73% of Aboriginal and Torres strait islander children who died by suicide were aged between 15 and 17 years. 
    • Just over half (53.8%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who died by suicide were female.

    For more information on suicides in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children see Table 11.12 in Data Cube 11 in this publication.

    Suicide by Indigenous status

    Mortality data can provide important insights into population health concerns relevant to different groups within the Australian population. Patterns of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people differ considerably to those of non-Indigenous people, as is the case with suicide.

    For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths due to suicide, in the two 5 year periods between 2011-15 and 2016-20:

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a suicide rate double that of non-Indigenous people.
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males have the largest rate increase across the two 5 year periods.

    In 2020:

    • Suicide was the 5th leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to 13th for non-Indigenous people. 
    • The median age for suicides was 31.3 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to 45.2 years for non-Indigenous people. 
    Age-standardised suicide rates by Indigenous status and sex, 2011-2020 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)(h)
     2011-20152016-2020
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait IslanderNon-IndigenousRate Ratio (g)Rate Difference (h)Aboriginal and Torres Strait IslanderNon-IndigenousRate Ratio (g)Rate Difference (h)
    Male32.517.51.915.039.019.12.019.9
    Female12.45.72.26.712.55.82.16.7
    Persons22.211.51.910.725.612.42.113.2

    a. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2011 - 2017 (final), 2018 (revised), 2019 and 2020 (preliminary). See the Data quality section of the methodology and Causes of Death Revisions, 2017 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2018 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 (cat. no. 3303.0).
    b. The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See the Deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) section of the methodology in this publication.  
    c. Age-standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See the glossary and the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section for further information.
    d. Data reported in this article are compiled by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For further information see Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Methodology section of this publication.
    e. Rates presented in this table have been calculated using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and projections based on the 2016 Census. As a result, these rates may differ from those previously published. See the Mortality tabulations and methodologies section of the methodology for further information.
    f. Changes in coding processes have been applied to 2020 data. See the Classifications and Mortality coding sections of the methodology for further information. 
    g. The rate ratio is the rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people divided by the non-Indigenous rate. Due to the effect of rounding, rates presented will not multiply exactly to ratio presented.
    h. The rate difference is the rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people less the non-Indigenous rate.

    Crisis Helplines

    Lifeline: 13 11 14
    Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
    Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800

    Data downloads

    1. Underlying causes of death (Australia)

    2. Underlying causes of death (New South Wales)

    3. Underlying causes of death (Victoria)

    4. Underlying causes of death (Queensland)

    5. Underlying causes of death (South Australia)

    6. Underlying causes of death (Western Australia)

    7. Underlying causes of death (Tasmania)

    8. Underlying causes of death (Northern Territory)

    9. Underlying causes of death (Australian Capital Territory)

    10. Multiple causes of death (Australia)

    11. Intentional self-harm (suicide) (Australia)

    12. Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

    13. Drug and alcohol-induced deaths (Australia)

    14. Causes of death by year of occurrence (Australia)

    15. Perinatal deaths (Australia)

    All data cubes

    Post release changes

    02/11/2021 - Updates to terminology for stillbirths where the sex was not specified as male or female have been made. The Mortality Data Centre team would like to acknowledge Morgan Carpenter from Intersex Human Rights Australia for his assistance and guidance on terminology for stillbirths where the sex of the infant is not specified.

    05/11/2021 - Updates to alcohol-induced death tabulation to include ICD-10 code K85.2 Alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis. Tables affected by this change are 13.11-13.16 in Drug and alcohol-induced deaths (Australia).

    Previous catalogue number

    This release previously used catalogue number 3303.0