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International Men’s Health Week


International Men's Health Week is marked every year around the world in the middle of June. It is an important opportunity to highlight men's health and to discuss some of the more difficult subjects, including mental health and suicide.

Since 2014, on average, six men have committed suicide every day in Australia. The number of men who die by intentional self-harm every year is nearly double the national road toll—2,348 suicides compared to a total of 1,225 road deaths in 2017. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2017, suicide ranked 10th as a leading cause of death for men (same ranking in 2008), while for women, it does not appear in the top 20 leading causes of death. 

Suicide by sex: 2008 to 2017

Source: ABS, Causes of Death, 2017, cat no, 3303.0 (Table 11.1)

Of the 3,128 suicides in Australia in 2017, men represented 75 per cent of all suicides. It is important to note that suicide data for 2017 is still preliminary and will be revised later this year. Following each revision, suicide data increases as the coronial process is finalised.

Deaths as a result of suicide occur among men at a rate more than three times greater than for women. In 2017, the age-specific death rate for men was 19.2 deaths per 100,000 and for women it was 6.3 deaths per 100,000.

Young men aged 15–24, whilst not having the highest age-specific suicide rate (18.4 per 100,000), suicide deaths accounted for well over a third of all deaths within this age group (38 per cent). It is the same story for those aged 25–34 (with a rate of 25.3 per 100,000 males) where suicide accounts for 34 per cent of all deaths.

In contrast, the highest age-specific suicide rate was among men aged 85 years and older, recording 32.8 deaths per 100,000. However, the number of suicide deaths in this age group accounted for less than one per cent of all deaths of those aged 85 years and over (0.2 per cent).

The second highest age-specific suicide rate for men was in the 35–44 year age group (28.1 deaths per 100,000), followed by 45–54 years (27.2 deaths per 100,000). The only decline seen in the last 10 years are rates for men aged 75–84 years, from 20.6 per 100,000 to 17.1 per 100,000. 

Male suicide: age-specific death rates, 2008 and 2017

Source: ABS, Causes of Death, 2017, cat no, 3303.0 (Table 11.3)

A recent report released by Beyond Blue on ambulance responses to men’s mental health, provides a more detailed picture of men and their mental wellbeing and suicidal thoughts. Beyond the Emergency maps men’s mental health journeys through emergency services by coding ambulance services’ paramedic clinical records in six jurisdictions—Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria (excluding South Australia and Western Australia).

A recent report released by Beyond Blue on ambulance responses to men’s mental health, provides a more detailed picture of men and their mental wellbeing and suicidal thoughts. Beyond the Emergency maps men’s mental health journeys through emergency services by coding ambulance services’ paramedic clinical records in six jurisdictions—Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria (excluding South Australia and Western Australia).

In a 12 month period, from July 2015 to June 2016, there were 112,637 ambulance attendances for men experiencing acute mental health issues. Of these:

  • 78 per cent of attendances were transported to hospital
  • 30 per cent of attendances involved police
  • more than 60 per cent involved alcohol and other drugs
  • just over 7 per cent of attendances involved a male that was physically or verbally aggressive
  • more than 20 per cent involved more than one mental health issue
  • more than 60 per cent of attendances occurred after hours
  • just over 33 per cent of attendances occurred on weekends
  • more than half were aged 18 to 44 years
  • 10 per cent of attendances were suffering anxiety
  • 9 per cent of attendances were suffering depression
  • 8 per cent attendances were psychosis related
  • where data on re-presentations was available, 42 per cent of attendances were to men re-presenting to ambulance services, 7.4 percent re-presented 10 or more times.

The report provides further detail on self-harm related attendances, stating there were 30,197 in the 12 month period (306 male per 100,000), including self-injury, self-injury ideation (or threat), suicidal ideation (thoughts), suicide attempt and suicides, and almost all of these cases were transported to hospital. There were almost twice as many ambulance attendances for suicidal ideation than attempts, but both often involved police.

Overdose was the most common way for men to attempt suicide. For almost half of suicidal ideation related attendances, the male involved had a clear suicide plan.

Clients of the Parliamentary Library can request assistance to interpret the statistics or find other relevant data by contacting the Parliamentary Library.

Source:

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death, Australia, cat no. 3303.0

Beyond Blue, Beyond the Emergency: A national study of ambulance responses to men’s mental health, Victoria, 2019

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