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Suicide

Definition

The number of suicide deaths per 100,000 population.

Relevance

Suicide is an indicator of the mental health of the population and a major cause of injury-related death.

Current level and trends

In 2007, 483 people died by suicide, a decrease from the 526 people who died in 2006.27 The age-standardised28 suicide death rate was 11.0 per 100,000 population in 2007, a decrease from 12.3 per 100,000 in 2006. Over the 1980s and 1990s there was an upward trend in the suicide death rate, which peaked at 15.1 per 100,000 in 1998. The rate has generally declined since then and in 2007 it was lower than the rate in 1986 (12.3 per 100,000).

Figure H3.1 Age-standardised suicide death rate, by sex, 1986–2007

Figure H3.1 Age-standardised suicide death rate, by sex, 1986–2007

Source: Ministry of Health

Notes: (1) The 2007 figures are provisional. (2) Age-standardised to WHO standard population.

Age differences

People aged 35–44 years had the highest suicide death rate in 2007 (17.8 per 100,000 population, with 113 deaths), followed by people aged 25–34 years (16.7 per 100,000, with 91 deaths), people aged 15–24 years (15.3 per 100,000, with 94 deaths), and people aged 45–64 years (13.2 per 100,000 with 135 deaths). Older people aged 65 years and over had the lowest rate (9.1 per 100,000 with 48 deaths).

Figure H3.2 Suicide death rate, by age group, 1986–2007

Figure H3.2 Suicide death rate, by age group, 1986–2007

Source: Ministry of Health

Note: The 2007 figures are provisional.

The youth (15–24 year olds) suicide death rate increased steeply in the late-1980s, peaking at 28.7 per 100,000 people aged 15–24 years in 1995. By 2007, it had fallen by 47 percent to 15.3 per 100,000, similar to the 1986 rate of 15.6 per 100,000. The pattern was similar for 25–34 year olds. Suicide death rates have fallen over the past two decades among people aged 45 years and over. These age patterns may reflect, in part, cohort effects.

Sex differences

Males have a significantly higher rate of death by suicide than females, with an age-standardised rate of 17.4 deaths per 100,000 males in 2007, compared with 4.9 deaths per 100,000 females. The male suicide death rate increased sharply in the late-1980s, peaked at 23.9 deaths per 100,000 males in 1995, then declined after 1998. In comparison, the female rate has been relatively stable over the last 20 years. For both sexes, suicide death rates were lower in 2007 than they had been in 1986. Because of the small numbers involved, it is more reliable to consider the trend over several years.

While the suicide death rate is higher for males, more females than males are hospitalised for intentional self-harm. In 2007, the female to male rate ratio for intentional self-harm in New Zealand was 1.8 female hospitalisations to every male hospitalisation per 100,000 population. Females more commonly choose methods that are less likely to be fatal.29

Ethnic differences

In 2007, there were 97 Māori deaths from suicide, accounting for 20 percent of all suicide deaths in that year. The age-standardised rate of suicide deaths in 2007 was 16.1 per 100,000 population for Māori, compared to 9.9 per 100,000 for non-Māori. The suicide death rate for Māori youth (15–24 year olds) in 2007 was 28.1 per 100,000, compared with the non-Māori rate of 12.3 per 100,000. Since 1996, suicide death rates have declined for non-Māori but there is no obvious trend for Māori, although the small numbers of Māori suicide deaths make it hard to ascertain trends.

Socio-economic differences

Suicide is more common in deprived neighbourhoods. In 2007, the age-standardised suicide death rate in the most deprived areas (NZDep2001 quintiles 3–5) was 13.3 per 100,000 population. This was significantly higher than the rate of 7.7 per 100,000 population in the least deprived areas (quintile 1). Rates of hospitalisation for intentional self-harm show a similar pattern.

International comparison

A comparison of the latest age-standardised suicide death rates in 13 OECD countries30 between 2002 and 2007 shows New Zealand’s (2007) rate was the fourth highest for males (17.4 per 100,000 males) and the sixth highest for females (4.9 per 100,000 females).31 Finland had the highest male suicide death rate (27.4 per 100,000 in 2006), while Japan had the highest female rate (10.0 per 100,000 in 2006). Canada (15.5 in 2005) had a lower rate of male suicide deaths than New Zealand, as did the United States (16.2 in 2005) and Australia (16.0 in 2003). The United Kingdom had the lowest male suicide death rate (9.4 in 2005). Canada (4.8), Australia (4.4), the United States (4.0) and the United Kingdom (2.9) all reported lower female suicide death rates than New Zealand.

New Zealand had the second highest male youth (15–24 years) suicide death rate (after Finland), and the second highest female youth suicide death rate (after Japan).

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