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J Clin Forensic Med. 2004 Jun;11(3):123-8.

Changing patterns of female suicide: 1986-2000.

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Forensic Science Centre, 21 Divett Place, Adelaide 5000, South Australia.


A study was undertaken of the rates and methods of female suicide observed at the Forensic Science Centre in South Australia over a 15 year period from 1986 to 2000. A total of 609 cases of female suicide were found (age range= 13-88 yrs; mean= 44 yrs), with 249 drug overdoses, 114 hangings, 100 deaths due to carbon monoxide (CO) toxicity, 40 drownings, 35 firearm deaths and 71 miscellaneous deaths (including deaths due to self-immolation, jumping from heights and incised wounds). The most common age range was 26-50 yrs in all categories except for drowning where victims tended to be older. While overall suicide rates in females remained unchanged, with no changes in the rates at different ages, significant increases in hanging and CO deaths occurred over all age groups (p < 0.05), with significant falls in drug overdose deaths in the 10-25 year age group (p < 0.01), and significant overall falls in suicides due to gunshot wounds (p < 0.05). No changes were observed in female suicides due to drowning. This study has demonstrated, therefore, that although no changes in overall suicide rates for females occurred, there have been alterations in the types of methods being used. Although drug related deaths remained the largest category, hanging deaths, which were once uncommon in females, have increased markedly.

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