A Reassessment of Suicide Measurement Academic Article uri icon


  • Background. Concern with suicide measurement is a positive, albeit relatively recent, development. A concern with “the social loss from suicide” requires careful attention to appropriately measuring the phenomenon. This paper applies two different methods of measuring suicide data: the conventional age-standardized suicide (count) rate; and the alternative rate, the potential years of life lost (PYLL) rate. Aims. The purpose of applying these two measures is to place suicide in Queensland in a historical and comparative (relative to other causes of death) perspective. Methods. Both measures are applied to suicide data for Queensland since 1920. These measures are applied also to two “largish” causes of death and two “smaller” causes of death, i.e., circulatory diseases, cancers, motor vehicle accidents, suicide. Results. The two measures generate quite different pictures of suicide in Queensland: Using the PYLL measure, suicide is a quantitatively larger issue than is indicated by the count measure. Conclusions. The PYLL measure is the more appropriate measure for evaluation exercise of public health prevention strategies. This is because the PYLL measure is weighted by years of life lost and, thus, it incorporates more information than the count measure which implicitly weights each death with a somewhat partial value, viz. unity.

publication date

  • January 2009