These tables present data about suicide deaths in New Zealand for the period 1996 to 2016. The tables include numbers and rates by common demographic breakdowns, such as age, sex, ethnicity, district health board (DHB) of residence and neighbourhood deprivation. High level key findings describe statistics and time trends.
It is important to note the difference between rates and numbers shown in these tables. Numbers refer to the actual number of people who have died by suicide. Rates account for differences in populations, which make them useful when comparing suicide deaths between population groups of different sizes. A rate measures how often a suicide occurs relative to the number of people in the population. Rates, rather than numbers, are more meaningful when comparing suicide data over time and between different populations (eg, between Māori and non-Māori, between males and females).
Overview of suicide in New Zealand 1996−2016
- From 1996 to 2016, the rate of suicide decreased significantly from 14.2 to 11.3 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 20%. The peak rate during this period was in 1998 (15.0 per 100,000) and the lowest rate was in 2014 (10.8 per 100,000).
- In 2016, there were 554 suicide deaths; a rate of 11.3 per 100,000
- The rate of suicide for males decreased significantly (26%), from 22.9 per 100,000 males in 1996 to 17.0 per 100,000 males in 2016. During the same time period the rate for females did not change markedly.
- Of all the life-stage groups, youth generally had the highest rate of suicide from 1996 to 2016. Over this period the rate for youth decreased significantly by 35%, from 25.9 per 100,000 in 1996 to 16.8 per 100,000 in 2016.
- The youth rate for males also decreased significantly however, for most of the time period, the rate for youth-aged males remained at least twice as high as the rate for youth-aged females.
- From 1996 to 2016, the rate of suicide for adults aged 25–44 years decreased by 15%, while the rate for those aged 45–64 years increased slightly.
- Adults aged 65+ years generally had the lowest rates of suicide.
- For the majority of the 10-year period 2007−2016, the rate of suicide for those living in the most deprived areas (quintile 5) was significantly higher (around twice as high) than for those living in the least deprived areas (quintile 1).
- For these years, the highest rates of suicide were generally for youth (15−24 years) and middle-aged adults (25−44 years) living in more deprived areas.
- Over the period 1996–2016, suicide rates for Māori fluctuated, but were significantly higher than for non-Māori for the majority of the period.
- For much of this period, suicide rates for Māori tended to be highest for males, those aged 15–44 years and those living in more deprived areas.
Because of small numbers in some ethnic groups data used to compare ethnic groups has been aggregated for the five-year period (2012–2016).
- For Māori, rates of suicide (for the five-year period, 2012–2016) were higher than for other ethnic groups:
- Māori, 17.1 per 100,000 Māori
- Pacific, 8.1 per 100,000 Pacific
- Asian, 4.2 per 100,000 Asian
- Other, 11.3 per 100,000 Other.
- For Pacific, the rate of suicide for those aged 15–24 years was significantly higher than for those in the older age groups.
- The most common methods of suicide used were hanging, strangulation and suffocation.
- The proportion of suicides using these methods increased from about 40% to 65% from 1996–2016. In the same period the use of poisoning by gases and vapours decreased from about 30% to 8%. Use of other methods did not change much over time.
- Differences in the rates of suicide between those living in rural and urban areas have decreased over time.
- The most notable change was for males in rural areas. The rate for this group reduced from a peak of 26.6 per 100,000 in 2010, to a rate maintained at or below 20.0 per 100,000 since 2012.
In New Zealand, suicide data is reported by both the Ministry of Health and by the Chief Coroner, Ministry of Justice. The coronial statistics are published as provisional and are a count of self-inflicted deaths released before coroners have investigated the circumstances surrounding death. The Ministry of Health publishes the number of suicides that have been confirmed by the coroner and also those provisionally coded as suicide where there is enough information to suggest the coroner will find the cause of death to be suicide. Consequently, the Chief Coroner’s statistics are published more quickly than the Ministry of Health’s statistics and there are differences between the numbers reported.
Comparison of deaths coded as suicides (Ministry of Health) and provisional suicides (Ministry of Justice) by quarter, between July 2007–Dec 2016
At the time the suicide data was extracted there were 135 deaths awaiting final coroners’ findings for 2016. Of these, 21 coroners’ cases had no known cause of death and 114 deaths had a provisional cause (ie, not yet confirmed). The final cause of death may be different from the provisional cause of death.
In this edition, data was extracted and recalculated for the years 1996–2016 to reflect ongoing updates to data in the New Zealand Mortality Collection (for example, following the release of coroners’ findings) and the revision of population estimates and projections following each census. For this reason there may be small changes to some numbers and rates from those presented in previous publications and tables.
We have quality checked the collection, extraction, and reporting of the data presented here. However errors can occur. Contact the Ministry of Health if you have any concerns regarding any of the data or analyses presented here, at email@example.com.