• Open Access

Deaths due to suicide: the effects of certification and coding practices in Australia


Correspondence to:
Ms Sue Walker, National Centre for Classification in Health, School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove Queensland 4059, Australia. Fax: (07) 3138 5515; e-mail: s.walker@qut.edu.au


Objective: To highlight issues relating to suicide coding that have an impact on the final reported mortality data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Method: This paper presents an outline of the way in which the official Australian suicide data is captured and coded and highlights issues relating to the classification used, coronial processes, documentation requirements and data sources that have an impact on the final reported data, especially deaths associated with coronial investigations.

Results: Issues related to the coding of Australian suicide data are:

  • Disparity between jurisdictions due to differences in documentation about accidental or undetermined causes of death.
  • Lack of standardisation in the way that coronial deaths are reported across Australia.
  • Lack of a standard form for police reports.
  • Administrative processes that cause delays in reporting the results of coronial investigations.
  • Reluctance on the part of some coroners to report deaths as suicides.

Conclusions: Researchers and policy makers need to be aware of the constraints under which suicide can be reported as such in the official data before interpreting time trends.