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The number of suicide deaths per 100,000 population, for the population aged 5 years and over.


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

Current level and trends

In 2006, 524 people died by suicide, an increase from the 511 people who died in 2005.23 The age-standardised24 suicide death rate was 12.2 per 100,000 population in 2006, the same rate as in 2005. 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 2006 it was similar to the rate in 1986 (12.3 per 100,000).

Figure H3.1 Age-standardised suicide death rate, by sex, 1986–2006

Figure H3.1 Age-standardised suicide death rate, by sex, 1986–2006

Source: Ministry of Health
Notes: (1) 2006 figures are provisional (2) Age-standardised to WHO standard population.

Age differences

People aged 15–24 years had the highest suicide death rate in 2006 (19.7 per 100,000 population, with 119 deaths), followed by people aged 25–34 years (18.6 per 100,000, with 102 deaths).

Figure H3.2 Suicide death rate, by age, 1986-2006

Figure H3.2 Suicide death rate, by age, 1986-2006

Source: Ministry of Health
Notes: 2006 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. It has fallen by 32 per cent since then, but is still higher than the 1986 rate of 15.6 per 100,000. The pattern is similar for 25–34 year olds. Suicide death rates have fallen over the past two decades for 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 18.5 deaths per 100,000 males in 2006, compared with 6.3 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 the years 2002­ to 2006, the male rate was similar to the 1986 rate of 18.3 deaths per 100,000 males. In comparison, the female rate has been relatively stable over the last 20 years. 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 2006, the female–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.25

Ethnic differences

In 2006, there were 107 Māori deaths by suicide, accounting for 20 per cent of all suicide deaths in that year. The age-standardised rate of suicide deaths in 2006 was 17.8 per 100,000 population for Māori, compared to 11.0 per 100,000 for non-Māori. The suicide death rate for Māori youth (15–24 year olds) in 2006 was 31.8 per 100,000, compared with the non-Māori rate of 16.8 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.

International comparison

A comparison of the latest age-standardised suicide death rates in 13 OECD countries26 between 2004 and 2006 shows New Zealand’s (2006) rate was the fifth highest for males (18.2 per 100,000 males) and the eighth highest for females (6.2 per 100,000 females).27Finland had the highest male suicide death rate (31.1 per 100,000 in 2006), while Japan had the highest female rate (12.7 per 100,000 in 2004). Australia (16.4 in 2005) had a lower rate of male suicide deaths than New Zealand, as did the United States (18.0 in 2005) and Canada (17.7 in 2004). The United Kingdom had the lowest male suicide death rate (11.1 in 2005). Canada (4.5), the United States (4.4), Australia (4.3) and the United Kingdom (3.8) 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). New Zealand is one of a small number of countries which have higher suicide death rates at younger ages than at older ages.28

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