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Latest suicide data – deaths down

28th November 2006

Latest suicide data – deaths down, hospitalizations leveling

Suicide Facts: 2004–2005 data, prepared by the Ministry of Health was released today, by Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton, at the 4th National Suicide Prevention Symposium in Dunedin. There were 486 suicide deaths in 2004 compared with 517 in 2003. The average suicide rate for 2002–2004 was 13.1 deaths per 100,000, a three percent decrease compared to 2001–2003 and a 19.6 per cent drop from the peak in 1996–1998.

"It is extremely encouraging to see that the suicide death rate has decreased and that the high hospitalization rates for intentional self harm are now just starting to level off.

“I have been very concerned by the high numbers of people hospitalised each year for intentional self-harm and the fact is that these numbers have been increasing for some time, as the other Ministry of Health publication released today shows,” Jim Anderton said

The other publication is New Zealand Suicide Trends: Mortality 1921–2003, hospitalisations for intentional self-harm 1978–2004 and it shows the rate of intentional self harm hospitalization increased substantially between the periods 1978-1980 and 1994-1996, and then again in the1998-2000 period from 104.0 per 100,000 to 113.5 per 100,000. In the 2000-2004 period there were 4932 hospitalisations on average per year for the 2000-2004 period. In 2005 there were 4933 hospitalisations for intentional self-harm - a rate of 152.7 per 100,000 population. This is similar to the rate in 2004 (152.5 per 100,000).

“ Exploring the nature of intentional self-harm behaviours and suicide attempts is a key focus of this symposium because we all want to see these statistics go down, and I hope that these signs of leveling off of hospitalization rates for intentional self-harm are the beginning of a new downward trend” he said.

This publication is the first time historical data on suicide trends in New Zealand dating back to 1921 has been released by the Ministry of Health.

The first suicide peak was in 1927–1929 at 18.5 deaths per 100,000 population, followed by a steep decline until 1942. Rates remained relatively stable to the mid-1980s but peaked again in 1996–1998 at 16.7 per 100,000 population. By 2001–2003 the rate of suicide had fallen to 14.2 deaths per 100,000 population.

Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton says including historical information helps paint a broader picture of suicide trends in New Zealand and forms the basis for more detailed work into some of the causes behind the trends.

"This information is incredibly valuable. Publishing trends is an important part of informing prevention efforts and helps show whether progress is being made to reduce the rate of suicidal behaviours, both overall and for specific age groups.''

Earlier this year the Ministry withdrew its publication Suicide Trends: New Zealand 1983–2003 because of an error in the computer code producing the figures that resulted in a significant undercount in the number of people reported as being hospitalised for an intentional self-harm event.

The Ministry took the opportunity to add to and improve the publication by including data on suicide deaths dating back to 1921, data on intentional self-harm hospitalisations dating back to 1978 and more detailed information by district health board area.

New Zealand Suicide Trends: Mortality 1921–2003, hospitalisations for intentional self-harm 1978–2004, details the patterns in suicide, using figures averaged over three years, which more clearly shows trends than comparing one year to the next. It does not look at the causes of suicide.

Both publications released today follow 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. A taskforce has been set up to develop the first five-year action plan to implement the strategy and in October a three-year advertising campaign was launched as part of the National Depression Initiative.

Some key findings of the 2004–2005 Suicide Data include:
Males continue to have a higher suicide rate than females. In 2002–2004 there were 3.1 male suicides to every female suicide, this did not change from 2001–2003.

The average rate of suicide for Māori was 17.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2002–2004. This is a 13.2% increase from that of 2001–2003 (15.1 per 100,000 population) and a 17.9% decrease from that of 1996–1998.

The disparity between the average suicide rates of Māori and non-Māori males in 2002–2004 is the widest it has been in the previous eight years. In 2002–2004 the average suicide rates for Māori males and females were 26.9 and 7.9 deaths per 100,000 population respectively, and for non-Māori males and females, they were 18.4 and 5.9 deaths per 100,000 population respectively.

In 2004, among females, those aged 15–19 years had the highest suicide rates. In 2004, among males those aged over 85 years old had the highest suicide rate.

In 2005 females continued to have a higher hospitalisation rate than males. The sex ratio was 2.0 female hospitalisations to every male hospitalisation.

In 2005 the Māori hospitalisation rate for intentional self-harm was nearly one and a half times the non-Māori rate.

In 2005, among females, those aged 15–19 years had the highest hospitalisation rate. In 2005, among males, those aged 20–24 years had the highest hospitalisation rate.

Other key findings from New Zealand Suicide Trends:

During the period 1921–1987 suicide deaths were most common in those aged over 45 years but by 1987 suicide deaths were most common in those aged 15 to 24, followed by those aged 25–34 years.

Over time the male suicide rate has been at least double that of the female rate. The difference was greatest in 1930–1932 when there were 4.9 male deaths for every female death.

The sex disparity hospitalisation rates have remained relatively constant, ranging from 1.4 to 1.7 female hospitalisations for every male hospitalisation, but this has increased to 2.1 in 2001–2003.


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


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