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Anderton comments on falling suicide rate

Anderton comments on falling suicide rate
06 April 2005

Data for 2002 released today are a reminder that New Zealand as a society continues to face a very serious challenge from suicide, says Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton.

"The latest suicide statistics show that the number of New Zealanders taking their own lives is continuing to fall, but that New Zealand still has the sixth-highest level of suicide among the developed nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Ministry of Health's report, Suicide Facts – Provisional 2002 All-Ages Statistics, show that a total of 460 people died by suicide in 2002, compared with 507 in 2001.

The suicide rate has declined by 25 percent since a peak in 1998, that is from 14.3 to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 population over the past five years.

"Suicide is a very serious public health issue. It is an indicator of mental health in society and reducing the rate of suicide, and suicide attempts, are the priority for the NZ Health Strategy and NZ Injury Prevention Strategy," the Progressive leader said.

Because there is no single reason why someone takes their own life, a broad range of preventive measures needs to be in place, supported by service providers, families, community, and government organizations.

Jim Anderton noted that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth Development are currently leading work on developing a new national strategy that will address suicide and suicide attempts across all age groups.

A draft New Zealand All Ages Suicide Prevention Strategy is expected to be released for public consultation by mid year when it will be available on the Ministry of Health website

The report: Suicide Facts - Provisional 2002 All-Ages Statistics is available from the Ministry of Health website:

Some key findings of the 2002 suicide data include:

The rate of suicide was higher for Maori than non-Maori, with 78 Maori dying by suicide in 2002, a rate of 12.6 per 100,000, compared with 79 in 2001, a rate of 13.4 per 100,000;

Males continue to have a higher suicide rate than females, with 3.2 male suicides to every female suicide per 100,000 population;

Females have a higher rate of hospitalisation for intentional self-harm, which is a proxy for attempted suicide, with a ratio of 1.95 female hospitalisations to every male hospitalisation per 100,000;

Small numbers of suicides among New Zealand’s Pacific Island and Asian populations make it difficult to draw conclusions about trends in these groups;

Although New Zealand young people continue to have a high rate of suicide compared with other nations, 80 percent of New Zealanders who died by suicide in 2002 were aged 25 years or older;

People aged 20 to 24 had the highest suicide rate, followed by people aged 25 to 29;

The Injury Prevention Research Unit at the University of Otago has estimated that in 2001 suicide and intentional self-inflicted injury made up the greatest proportion - more than 30 percent - of all injury related fatalities;

NOTE: There is evidence that some types of media coverage of suicide can increase the rate of suicidal behaviour. The Ministry of Health has published a resource to help with the reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media. For copies of Suicide and the Media - The reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media, a resource see the Ministry's website or

Where can people find more information about suicide and suicide prevention?

SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand) Ph: (09) 300 7035 Website:

General information about mental health for the public
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand Resource and Information Centre Ph: (09) 300 7010;

Resource Centre: (09) 300 7030; Website:

Statistics New Zealand Health Information Service Ph: (04) 922 1800 Website:

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