Distress levels up, deaths steady in COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic did not lead to more Australians taking their own lives, contrary to some predictions.

But it did increase levels of psychological distress, particularly for younger people.

The JobKeeper program, increased JobSeeker supplement and labour market recovery were protective factors against suicide, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found.

An examination of coronial data across Victoria, NSW and Queensland did not show an increase in deaths by suicide during the pandemic.

“In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was widely speculated that there would be large rises in the number of deaths by suicide,” the institute’s deputy chief executive Matthew James told reporters.

“Luckily, these predictions have not come to pass.”

Suicide deaths for most OECD countries had not risen during the pandemic, Mr James said.

About 3000 Australians die by suicide each year, an average of nine a day.

In 2019 there were 3318 such deaths, a rate of 12.9 per 100,000 people.

The institute said data from Victoria, NSW and Queensland coroners did not show an increase in suspected suicide deaths in 2020, or since the COVID-19 pandemic began.