New Zealand suicide stats: Number of people dying by suicide up from last year, Māori continue to be disproportionately affected

Warning: This article discusses suicide.

The number of people dying by suspected suicide in New Zealand has increased compared to last year and Māori continue to be disproportionately negatively affected, the Chief Coroner has revealed.

On Thursday Chief Coroner Judge Anna Tutton released figures for the financial year to 30 June 2023 which showed 565 people died by suspected suicide and the rate was 10.6 people per 100,000.

It's an increase on last year's figure which showed 538 people died by suspected suicide and the rate was 10.2.  

"Our thoughts are with the many people who are affected by the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one and I offer my sincere condolences to them," Judge Tutton said.

The Chief Coroner said it is important to focus on rates rather than numbers because rates per 100,000 people account for the size of the population.

"Fluctuations in rates from year to year are common in suicide data, and we can only start to consider a trend over a five-to ten-year period," she said.

Suicide Prevention Office at Manatū Hauora - Ministry of Health acting director Dr Sarah Hetrick said releasing the data is important to help understand how Aotearoa is dealing with suicide. "We collect, use and publish this suicide information as an important way to understand how we are progressing towards an Aotearoa that does not experience suicide," Dr Hetrick said. 

"However, first and foremost we must acknowledge the devastating impact on whānau bereaved by this experience. Everything we do is motivated by this reality and we are working hard to ensure fewer whānau and friends are left grieving.

"Our focus remains on reducing the burden of suicide, which requires a systems-level, whole-of-government response that addresses structural determinants such as poverty, racism, discrimination and post-colonial legacy. We also need to reduce exposure to factors that increase the risk of suicide such as violence of all types, alcohol-related harm, stand-down and exclusion from schools and harmful communication about self-harm and suicide."

The rate for the 2022 to 2023 year is lower than the average rate over the last 14 financial years, and lower than the rate immediately prior to COVID-19 in the 2018 and 2019 financial year, which was 13.1 per 100,000 people.

The decrease is not statistically significant. New Zealand remains in step with international data that shows no change or a decrease in rates of suicide over the past several years. 

Māori continue to be disproportionately negatively affected. The provisional rate of suspected suicide for Māori is 15.8 per 100,000 people for the 2022 to 2023 financial year, and this has not changed compared with the average over the past 14 years. For Asian peoples, the rate is 4.1 per 100,000 people and this rate is also unchanged.

There was a statistically significant reduction in the rate per 100,000 people for Pacific populations, which is now 5.1 per 100,000 people, compared with the average of the past 14 years.

Where to find help and support: 

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584