Statistics on suicide in New Zealand

What does the data tell us?
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Sources of information

There are two main sources of suicide statistics in New Zealand: 

  1. The Chief Coroner  
    • The Chief Coroner publishes provisional suicide statistics around August each year (for the period of 1 July of the previous year to 30 June of the current year).
    • These figures are provisional because they refer to suspected completed suicides. For a death to be legally described as a suicide, a coroner must rule that the death was self-inflicted. 
  2. Ministry of Health 
    • The most current actual suicide figures are from the Ministry of Health. These statistics are always published several years after the Coronial data, as the Coronial investigation process for each death can take a while. 

What does the data tell us?

When looking at suicide statistics, it’s important to consider the difference between rates and numbers. Numbers are the number of individuals who have died by suicide, while rates show how many suicides occurred per every 100,000 people in the population. Looking at the rates over time will show whether or if the overall situation/trend has changed. It may be that the number of people who die by suicide increases but because the overall population has increased, the suicide rate remains unchanged or decreases. It’s important to consider suicide data over a number of years rather than measuring trends over a single year. Behind these statistics are lives lost, families devastated, and communities in pain.

The figures below are taken from the provisional data by the Chief Coroner, the Ministry of Health, and other sources of information: 

  • 607 people died by suspected suicide in the 2020/2021 financial year (from July 2020 to June 2021), less than the 685 reported in 2018/19 and 628 in 2019/20.
  • Males are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than females.

Suspected suicide rates for ethnicities

Group 2017/18 rates per 000,000  2018/19 rates per 000,000 2019/20 rates per 000,000  2020/21 rates per 000,000
Māori  20 18.8 21 17.6
Pacific 8.5 8.1 8.1 5.8
Asian 5.1 4.6 4.7 6.5
European / Other 13 12.8 13.5 11.8
Overall 12.7 12.2 12.9 11.3

Ministry of Health suicide trend data shows that between 1996 and 2016:

  • There was a 20% decrease in the national suicide rate, although this was not equal across all populations. 
  • Suicide rates for Māori fluctuated but were significantly higher than for non-Māori for most of this time. 
  • 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. 
  • For Pasifika, the rate of suicide for those aged 15–24 years was significantly higher than for those in the older age groups.  
  • 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, the rate for females didn't change significantly. 
  • Differences in the rates of suicide between those living in rural and urban areas have become smaller. 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 at or below 20.0 per 100,000 since 2012. 
  • The age groups with the three highest suicide rates in 2019/2020 are 25-29, 30-34 and 80-84.

Youth suicide data

New Zealand’s youth suicide rate for adolescents aged 15-19 years was reported to be the highest of 41 OECD/EU countries (based on data from 2010).

The Youth19 survey revealed that:  

  • 23% had significant depressive symptoms, up from 13% in 2012. 
  • 6.2% of young people had attempted suicide, and the rate for females (7.3%) was higher than males (5.0%). Serious thoughts of suicide and attempted suicide occurred more often in areas of high deprivation. The rate for males had increased since 2012. 
  • 19% had difficulty getting help for their emotional concerns.
  • 53% of same- or multiple-sex attracted students reported significant depressive symptoms. Half (50%) of this group reported that they had self-harmed in the past year.  
  • 13% same- or multiple-sex attracted students reported they had attempted suicide in the past year.

For more information, contact info@mentalhealth.org.nz  

More detailed information about New Zealand suicide statistics can be found on the Ministry of Health’s interactive web tool:

Last Checked: October 2021     

References

1 Coronial Services of New Zealand. (2020). Annual provisional suicide statistics for deaths reported to the Coroner between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2020. Retrieved from https://coronialservices.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/2020-Annual-Provisional-Suicide-Statistics.pdf


2 Coronial Services of New Zealand and Ministry of Health. (2021). Suicide web tool. https://minhealthnz.shinyapps.io/suicide-web-tool/  


3 Ministry of Health. (2019). Suicide facts: data tables 1996−2016. https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/suicide-facts-data-tables-19962016


4 The figure is 15.6 and refers to suicide rates for adolescents aged 15–19 per 100,000 population, based on data from 2010. p. 22.  Brazier, C., UNICEF, & Office of Research. (2017). Building the future: children and the sustainable development goals in rich countries. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. Retrieved from https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/890


5 p. 4-5; Fleming, T., Tiatia-Seath, J., Peiris-John, R., Sutcliffe, K., Archer, D., Bavin, L., Crengle, S., & Clark, T. (2020). Youth19: Rangatahi Smart Survey initial findings: Hauora hinengaro: Emotional and mental health (Youth2000 Survey Series). University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5bdbb75ccef37259122e59aa/t/5f338e4cfb539d2246e9e5ce/1597214306382/Youth19+Mental+Health+Report.pd


6 Fenaughty, J., Sutcliffe, K., Clark, T., Ker, A., Lucassen, M., Greaves, L., & Fleming, T.  (2021). A Youth19 Brief: Same- and multiple-sex attracted students. (2021). Youth19. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5bdbb75ccef37259122e59aa/t/607cb9d833521c74d11fd160/1618786781847/Youth19+Brief_Same+and+multiple+sex+attracted+students+April2021.pdf