Apparent Suicide Rates Did Not Increase During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Deaths by suicide can increase during infectious disease outbreaks. This study analyzed suspected suicide rates in 2020 relative to 2015–19 to assess any early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Queensland, Australia.

The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention observed no apparent increase of suicides during the global pandemic. These findings were published in the journal, Lancet Psychiatry.

Data from the interim Queensland Suicide Register (iQSR) collected between 2015 and August 2020 were analyzed for this study. The iQSR quantified the suspected number of suicides from police reports. The suspected monthly suicide rates before and during the quarantine due to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic were compared.

During 2020, Queensland had 27 active COVID-19 infections, 1122 patients had recovered, and 6 had died from complications due to COVID-19.

The estimated population of Queensland in 2017 was 5,026,827 and in 2020 it had increased to 5,290,158. Between 2015 and January 28, 2020, there were 3793 suspected suicides of individuals who were mostly men (76.1%) aged mean 44.37 (standard deviation, 17.83) years. After the Public Health Emergency Declaration in Queensland, 443 suspected suicides occurred among mostly men (77.7%) aged mean 43.25 (SD, 18.29) years.

These observed suicide rates were not significantly increased after the declaration of emergency (risk ratio [RR], 0.94; 95% CI, 0.82-1.06; P =.32). Adjusting for seasonality (RR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.86-1.08; P =.50) and pre-exposure non-linearity (RR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.83-1.25; P =.85) did not significantly affect the risk for suicide.

Separated by gender, neither women (RR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.53-1.32; P =.44) nor men (RR, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.84-1.38; P =.56) were at increased risk for suicide during the COVID-19 health emergency.

The investigators compared the apparent motivation for the suspected suicides before and during the pandemic. No significant difference was observed for relationship breakdowns (RR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.77-1.13; P =.51), financial problems (RR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.70-1.30; P =.80), recent unemployment (RR, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.85-1.76; P =.29), or domestic violence (RR, 1.24; 95% CI, 0.81-1.89; P =.33).

There were a total of 49 suspected suicides in which the police report cited COVID-19 as having influenced the suicide which was due to stress and anxiety (n=20), employment (n=16), social isolation (n=5), health care (n=5), financial difficulties (n=2), and a relationship breakdown (n=1).

This study may have been limited by its estimation of the overall population during 2020. If this value was incorrectly estimated, the suicide rates on which these results were based may have been skewed.

These data indicated that during the short term, the COVID-19 health emergency did not appear to contribute to suicidal behavior. Additional studies in other regions are needed to determine whether these findings are generalizable worldwide.


Leske S, Kõlves K, Crompton D, Arensman E, de Leo D. Real-time suicide mortality data from police reports in Queensland, Australia, during the COVID-19 pandemic: An interrupted time-series analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2020;S2215-0366(20)30435-1. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30435-1