Understanding suicide data

Classification of a suicide death

In New Zealand, a death is only classified as suicide by the coroner on completion of the coroner’s inquiry. In some cases, an inquest may be heard several years after the death, particularly if there are factors relating to the death that need to be investigated first (for example, a death in custody). Consequently, a provisional suicide classification may be made before the coroner reaches a verdict.

The numbers of deaths by suicide in New Zealand are published annually by the Ministry of Health in Suicide Facts: Deaths and intentional self-harm hospitalisations. The most recent edition of Suicide Facts contains provisional 2012 data.

High level suicide information for 2013 (ahead of the Suicide Facts 2013 publication) is available at Suicide Facts: 2013 data. This data shows that in 2013, 508 people in New Zealand died by suicide – a rate of 11.0 deaths per 100,000 population.

Comparing New Zealand sources of data on suicide

In addition to the Ministry’s official statistics on suicide, each year the Chief Coroner releases provisional data on suspected self-inflicted deaths notified to the Coroner.

The following table outlines the key differences between the Ministry’s official statistical publication Suicide Facts and the Chief Coroner’s provisional data.

Suicide Facts (Ministry of Health)

Provisional suicide data (Coronial Services of NZ)

Annually by calendar year

Annually from July to June

Deaths which have been determined by a Coroner to be a suicide (including only a few provisional cases still to be determined)

Provisional count of all self-inflicted deaths referred into the coronial system, including active cases before a Coroner where intent is yet to be established by a Coroner

Subject to minor revisions as the few remaining provisional cases are finalised

Subject to significant revision as Coronial determinations are completed

For the above reasons, data is published approximately two to three years after the annual period of interest.

For the above reasons, data is published two months after the annual period of interest.

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