5 New Facts About Male Suicide in Australia
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released its annual Causes of Death report giving us up-to-date information on the number of men who die each year from different causes.
In this article we highlight the latest statistics on male suicide in Australia, which cover the period from 1 January 1 to 31 December 2021. The statistics for the current year (2022) will be published in the final quarter of next year (2023).
1. Male suicide is still on the rise
In the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, male suicide rates hit a record 20-year high (20.2 males per 100,000 population). During the two key years of the pandemic, male suicide rates fell by around 8% to 18.7 per 100k (2020) and 18.2 per 100k (2021) compared to the peak recorded in 2019.
Looking at the longer-term trend over a 10-year period, male suicide rates rose by 13% from 2011 to 2021 (up from 16.3 to 18.2 male suicides per 100,000 population).
Men still account for 3 in 4 suicides in Australia.
In 2021, a total of 3,134 people in Australia took their own lives and precisely 75% were men (2,358 male suicides and 786 female suicides).
Suicide kills more than 8 Australians a day, claiming the lives of six men and two women every day on average.
2. Male suicide is still a #1 killer
Male suicide continues to be the leading killer of Australian men under the age of 55. In 2021 a total of 1,559 men and boys under the age of 55 died by suicide. That’s an average of 4 men and boys under the age of 55 killed by suicide every day in Australia.
3. Male Suicide is still different from female suicide
Apart from the persistent fact that men are three-times more likely to die by suicide than women, there are still some key ways that male and female suicides differ.
When we look at key risk factors for suicide, the majority of male suicides are not linked to mental health issues, which are more common in female suicides as follows:
- Depression (41.6% female suicides vs 36.2% male suicides)
- Anxiety (24.4% vs 15%)
- Suicide Ideation (28.2% v 23.3%)
- Self Harm (33.2% v 16.2%)
In contrast, male suicides are more likely than female suicides to be linked to a range of situational factors such as issues around relationships, work and legal matters as follows:
- Spousal issues (24.7% male suicides vs 21.8 female suicides)
- Legal issues (10.5% vs 5.9%)
- Employment/Unemployment (8.9% vs n/a)
In addition, chronic alcohol abuse (13.1% vs 10.9%) and chronic substance abuse (13.5% vs 9.8%) are more common risk factors in male suicide than female suicide.
4. Suicide still kills men of all ages
The majority of male suicides occur in men under the age of 65.
In 2021, men under 65 account for more than 80% of male suicides (a total of 1,912 out of 2,358 male suicides). On average, 5 men a day under 65 die from suicide in Australia.
Suicide in boys under the age of 15 is relatively uncommon in Australia, with 14 suicides recorded in this age group in 2021. The risk of suicide increases for boys and young men aged 15-19, with 100 male suicides recorded in this age group in 2021.
Significantly for younger men, suicide is by far the biggest single killer accounting for around 1 in 3 deaths in men and teenage boys aged 15 to 29.
Men of working age (20 to 64) account 76% of all male suicides (1,798 out of 2,358 male suicides in 2021). In particular, men aged 40 to 54 currently have the highest rates of male suicide among men of working age.
Suicide continues to be an issue for older men, with those 65 and over accounting for nearly one in five (18.9%) male suicides. The risk of suicide in men aged 65 to 79 is slightly lower than in men of working age.
However, men over 80 continue to be the age group with the highest rate of suicide in Australia (31.2 deaths per 100,000 population for men aged 80 to 84 and 36.4 per 100k for men 85 and over).
Due to the relatively small number of men aged over 80, the number of suicides is lower than in other age groups accounting for around 150 deaths a year. On average 3 men aged 80 and over die by suicide every week.
5. First Nations suicide still a major issue
Aboriginal and Torres Islander males continue to die from suicide at a significantly higher rate than non-Indigenous males.
In 2021, there were 196 Aboriginal and Torres Islander suicides, of these nearly 7 in 10 (134) were male and 62 were female.
In terms of suicide rates, which enable us to compare the relative risk of suicide in populations of different sizes, the risk of male suicide is twice as high in Indigenous males (38.6 deaths per 100,00 population) compared with non-Indigenous males (18.5 per 100k).
More starkly, suicide rates in Indigenous men under 45 years old is around 3 times higher than in non-Indigenous men as follows:
- 2x higher in men aged 15-24 (57.7 deaths per 100k vs 18.3)
- 5x higher in men aged 25-34 (70.6 deaths per 100k vs 20.4)
- 3x higher in men aged 35-44 (77.7 deaths per 100k vs 26.3)