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Report: Suicide in decline, but leading cause of premature death

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About eight Australians died by suicide every day in 2016, new statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show.

A total of 2,866 people died from intentional self-harm last year, a decrease of 161 from 2015, but the death rate of 11.7 per 100,000 persons was the third highest in the past decade.

Although suicide accounts for less than 2% of all death, its toll on the young is huge–accounting for more than 1 in 3 deaths of people aged 15-24 and more than 1 in 4 in people aged 25-34.

“In 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death among all people 15-44 years of age, and the third leading cause of death among those 45-54 years of age,” the Causes of Death, Australia, 2016 report said.

“The median age at death for suicide was 43.3 years. This compares to a median age of 81.9 years for all deaths.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are approximately twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous Australians.

Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) chief executive Sue Murray says there is a need for sustained investment in prevention efforts.

“We are encouraged by the reported decrease, increased funding, support across Parliament, and focus on regionally driven suicide prevention over the past year,” Ms Murray said.

“Many organisations and communities are working hard to implement locally driven prevention plans, focusing on priority issues such as primary care and care following discharge from our hospitals, as well as trialling innovative whole-of-community solutions.

“We will continue to encourage all working in suicide prevention to hold their focus on making the deep systemic and social changes needed.”

Lifeline Research Foundation executive director Alan Woodward said the figures represented the immense and overpowering challenges experienced by many Australians, from loneliness and relationship breakdown to economic hardship and mental illness.

“These issues are reflected in the million requests for help received by Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services each year,” Mr Woodward said.

“Our message to people who might be struggling is that tough times do pass.”

The ABS figures also showed the highest number of drug-induced deaths since the late 1990s, with a death rate of 7.5 per 100,000. Most of the 1,808 deaths were associated with prescription drugs such as Benzodiazepines and Oxycodone.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death, although the number and rate of death from heart disease and stroke continues to decline.

At the same time, death rates from other diseases such as dementia are increasing. Dementia is now the leading cause of death among Australian women.

Cancer accounted for almost 30 per cent of the 158,504 deaths in Australia in 2016, with lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers the biggest killers.

The full report can be found at

24/7 crisis support information can be found at:

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