Objectives: To (a) quantify the lethality of suicide methods used in Australia in the period 1 July 1993 to 30 June 2003, (b) examine method-specific case fatality by age and sex, and (c) identify changes in case fatality during the study period.
Methods: Two sources of data on episodes of self-harm in Australia were used, mortality and hospital separation data. Double counting of cases recorded in both sources was controlled by omitting fatal hospital cases from estimates of episodes of self-harm.
Results: Overall case fatality was 12%. For each suicide method, case fatality was higher in males and older age groups. Firearms were the most lethal suicide means (90%) followed by hanging (83%). Rates of suicide involving firearms declined over time, and those involving hanging rose. Case fatality for firearm cases changed little over time, but declined for self-harm by hanging/suffocation, poisoning, sharp objects, and crashing a motor vehicle.
Conclusions: This study (Australia) and two others (USA) show differences in method-specific lethality by gender and age. This study adds the finding of changes in lethality over time. Understanding of suicidality in populations, on which prevention efforts depend, requires explanation of these findings.
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