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Latest Suicide Trends

1st August 2006

Latest Suicide Trends

Suicide Trends: New Zealand 1983-2003, prepared by the Ministry of Health and released today, shows the suicide death rate has decreased by 15 per cent after peaking in the mid to late 1990s.

Suicide Trends details the patterns in suicide and suicide attempt over the past 20 years, using figures averaged over three years, which more clearly shows trends than comparing one year to the next.

Despite the number of self-inflicted deaths increasing from 465 in 2002 to 516 in 2003, three-yearly averages show suicide rates declining after peaking in the mid to late 90s.

“It provides some comfort to see the long term trend still appears to be heading in the right direction, with a continued decline or levelling off of self-inflicted deaths but there is no room for complacency,” said Jim Anderton, Associate Health Minister.

“Any reduction in people taking their own lives is a good thing, but when you see the increase in attempted suicides, with hospitalisation rates up from 66.6 hospitalisations per 100,000 New Zealanders in the mid-1980s to 82.5 hospitalisations per 100,000 population from 2002-2004 you know there is still much to be done” he said.

“Publishing trends in suicide data is important to inform prevention efforts and to show whether progress is being made to reduce the rate of suicidal behaviours, both overall and for specific population groups,” Jim Anderton said

This latest suicide trends publication adds to and extends the 2001 publication, Suicide Trends in New Zealand 1978–1998. It follows the release in June of the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006-2016 which focuses on reducing suicide and attempted suicide in all age groups through a range of prevention initiatives supported by Government, service providers, communities and families.

The Ministry of Health has set up a taskforce to develop and oversee the first five-year action plan to implement the strategy. The detailed plan is expected to be released next year, and will add to the range of suicide prevention initiatives already in place, such as the National Depression Initiative.

A Suicide Research Network has also been established to provide an evidence base for suicide prevention policy.

Suicide Trends: New Zealand 1983-2003 shows:

Between 1996-1998 there were 16.7 deaths per 100,000 New Zealanders. By 2001-2003, the rate had dropped to about 14.2 deaths per 100,000. This reduction is paralleled by similar decreases in other countries such as Australia.

Hospitalisation rates for attempted suicide have increased from 66.6 hospitalisations per 100,000 New Zealanders in the mid-1980s to 82.5 hospitalisations per 100,000 population from 2002-2004.

The 25 to 34-year-old age group has the highest suicide rate, though youth suicide rates remain a concern.

Suicide was more prevalent among men, with three times as many men as women dying by suicide between 2001 and 2003

Maori had the highest suicide rates, especially Maori males under 35 years old, between 2000 and 2003

Suicide and attempted suicide rates are highest in low socioeconomic areas

Women were more likely than men to be hospitalised for suicide attempts.

Suicide Trends: New Zealand 1983-2003 will provide baseline data for future trends reports which will be used to inform prevention efforts and to show whether progress is being made to reduce suicide in New Zealand.

NB: There is evidence that some types of media coverage of suicide can increase suicide rates. Responsible media reporting of suicide is encouraged. For information see Suicide and the Media: The reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media at

To access the full publication online go to


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