Key Statistics

NZ statistics about suicide can be found on several government websites and other community agencies also publish relevant statistics.

  • 460 people completed suicide in 2002.
  • Men more likely to die than women.
  • Maori suicide ratio higher.
  • Suicide lowest amongst the married.
  • There are problems with analysing data on suicidal behaviour.
  • Numerically motor vehicle accidents and suicide tend to be similar.
Key statistics from Government NewHealth website. For Demographic breakdown - suicide across the population, link here

On average, approximately 550 people die by suicide each year in New Zealand.

The suicide statistics, released 6 April, 2005, 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 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. 

However figures have recently dropped, e.g.:
1997: 561 people
1998: 577 people
1999: 516 people
2000: 458 people
2001: 507 people
2002: 460 people

Number of young people (15-24 years) died by suicide:
1997: 142 young people
1998: 140 young people
1999: 120 young people
2000:  96 young people
2001: 107 young people

Note: 10-14 year olds figures are also available through the NZHIS website.

A quarter of the deaths by suicide in 1998 were people aged between 15 and 24 years (140 deaths), though in recent years the rate of suicide in this age group has decreased.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of youth (15-24 years) suicide in a comparison of OECD countries.

Men are more than three times as likely to die from suicide than women. However, more women are likely to be hospitalised for self-inflicted injury and suicide attempt than men.

There are now more deaths by suicide than by motor vehicle traffic crashes.(See discussion of this below.)

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.)

Suicide among Pacific peoples increased from 13 deaths in 1997 to 24 in 1998. This increase was made up primarily of Pacific males aged 25 to 54 years.

In 1998 the age group with the highest rate of suicide were those aged 15-24, followed by those aged 25-34 years.

People aged 20 to 24 had the highest suicide rate in 2002, followed by people aged 25 to 29. 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.

In 1998/99 there were 1,427 male and 2,204 female discharges from public hospitals for self-inflicted injuries/suicide attempts.

Youth aged 15-24 years had the highest rates of hospitalisation for self-inflicted injury and suicide between 1991 and 1998. 

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

Suicide deaths, 2002
Key points:
  • A total of 460 people died by suicide, compared with 507 in 2001 and 458 in 2000.
  • The suicide mortality rate declined by 25 percent since a peak in 1998, from 14.3 to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 population.
  • The age-standardised suicide rate for the total population was 10.7 per 100,000 population, with males continuing to have a higher rate than females (16.6 compared to 5.2 per 100,000 population).
  • The all-ages sex ratio for the suicide rate in New Zealand was 3.2 male suicides to every female suicide per 100,000 population.
  • 350 males died by suicide, compared with 388 in 2001 and 375 in 2000.
  • 110 females died by suicide, compared with 119 in 2001 and 83 in 2000.
  • The age-standardised suicide rate for males was 16.6 per 100,000 population, the lowest rate since 1985 (14.3 per 100,000 population). This is compared with 18.7 per 100,000 population in both 2001 and 2000.
  • The age-standardised rate of suicide for females was 5.2 per 100,000 population, compared to 5.5 per 100,000 population in 2001 and 4.0 per 100,000 population in 2000.
  • The rate of suicide was higher for Mäori than for non-Mäori. For Mäori males and females the age-standardised rates were 19.7 and 5.9 deaths respectively per 100,000 population, and for non-Mäori males and females they were 15.6 and 4.8 deaths per 100,000 population respectively.
  • People aged 20-24 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate for five-year age groups (20.7 deaths per 100,000 population), followed by people aged 25-29 years (20.6 deaths per 100,000 population).
  • When considering life-cycle age groups, for females, 15-24-year-olds had the highest age-specific suicide rate (11.0 per 100,000 population), while for males 25-44-year-olds had the highest age-specific suicide rate (29.5 per 100,000 population).
  • In 2002, New Zealand’s all-age suicide rates for males and females were the sixth highest among OECD countries with comparable data.
  • The hospitalisation rate for intentional self-harm for the total population was 128.2 cases per 100,000 population, compared with 129.2 cases per 100,000 population in the 2000/01 financial year.
  • The female-to-male rate ratio for intentional self-harm in New Zealand was 1.95 female hospitalisations to every male hospitalisation per 100,000 population.
Some important notes on statistics
Data on suicidal behaviour is frequently misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Key problems in analysing data on suicidal behaviour include: incorrectly drawing conclusions from small numbers of suicide deaths; comparing data over a period that is too short; or incorrectly comparing city or regional data.

The data itself is also problematic because of changing ethnicity classifications, delays and a lack of uniformity with coroners' reports, and the lack of a national system to systematically gather hospital emergency department data.

Note that while the total number of suicide deaths within a population group may increase over time, the rate of suicide may decrease. This is explained by growth in that particular population group over time. As population sizes change over time it is advisable to compare suicide rates between years, rather than actual numbers of suicide deaths.

Close-up On Some Statistics

Suicide or Road Deaths - which rates are higher?
Some reports say:
There are now more deaths by suicide than by motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Others say:
Suicide is the second leading cause of death after motor vehicle accidents, for 15 to 44 year olds.

The fact is that numerically, motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) and suicide tend to be similar. Annual variation may change the relative position of either.

However according to the 1999 provisional data, there were the following number of deaths:

Suicide: total = 516, aged 15-44 = 355 deaths
MVA: total = 533, aged 15-44 = 307 deaths

So for 1999, the opposite of both statements is correct. There were more deaths through suicide than by motor vehicle accidents. But the age range 15-44, recorded more suicides than motor vechicle accidents.

Other statistical information see:
Suicide Trends in New Zealand 1978-1998 (NZHIS 2001)

Suicide Statistics 2001

www.newhealth.govt.nz