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Increase in life-threatening injuries from self-harm – Media release

3 October 2019

There were 555 people who took their own lives in New Zealand in 2016, an age-standardised rate of 11.6 suicides per 100,000 people, Stats NZ said today.

The suicide rate (fatal injuries from self-harm) was twice that of serious non-fatal injuries from self-harm. In 2016, a rate of 4.8 in every 100,000 people had serious but non-fatal injuries from intentional self-harm. This reflected 223 acts of self-harm where there was a serious risk of death.

The figures in this release do not include intentional self-harm or suicide attempts that were not fatal or life-threatening.

The New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy (NZIPS) identified six priority areas for national injury prevention: assault, work-related injuries, suicide and intentional self-harm, falls, motor-vehicle traffic crashes, and drowning and near drowning.

“Of the six priority areas for national injury prevention, intentional self-harm is the only one where the fatal rate is higher than non-fatal,” government injury information manager Andrew Neal said.

Fatality rates from self-harm have been relatively steady since the series began in 2000, but serious non-fatal injury rates have risen since 2013.

“Serious non-fatal injuries are those that could be life threatening. Information about these injuries provides insight into injury risks for New Zealanders, and a broader view than just looking at fatalities,” Mr Neal said.

Serious non-fatal injuries from self-harm in 2018 occurred at a rate of 5.9 injuries per 100,000 people. This is an increase of 2.4 injuries per 100,0000 people, from 3.5 in 2013.

“It is unclear from reported data why serious non-fatal injury rates may have been rising for the past five years. This increase may reflect factors such as better awareness and reporting of mental health issues and self-harm, better medical attention to save people who may have died otherwise, a general increase in attempts, or a combination of such factors,” Mr Neal said.

Serious non-fatal injuries are injury events in which a patient admitted to hospital is determined to have a probability of death of 6.9 percent or more.

In 2016, young adults – those aged 15–29 years old – had the highest rate of serious injuries from intentional self-harm at 27.8 serious injuries per 100,000 people. This age group reported less than 15 percent of all serious injuries, but over one-third of all serious injuries caused by intentional self-harm.

Note: The rates stated are age-standardised rates. Age-standardised rates are often used to compare rates between two time periods, as they account for the differences in the age structure of the populations being compared. This is particularly true if the characteristic being observed varies by age, as with serious injuries.

Adjusting for the change in age structure over time means that tr

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