Social correlates of suicide in Australia

Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/86)

The report provides a general overview of suicide in Australia by focusing on a number of key social factors. Its aim is not to minimise the importance of psychogenic factors in suicide but to highlight its sociological aspects. Besides providing an introduction to the sociology of suicide the first three chapters analyse suicide trends in Australia and the social and economic factors associated with the fluctuation in the suicide rates over the past one hundred years. Special attention is paid to the role of economic, social and demographic factors which have elevated suicide rates in two theatres of life: the very young and the aged. The next five chapters examine the mediating role of work, family, occupation, gender, age, temporal cycle, seasons, immigration and ethnicity in suicidal behaviour in Australia. The last three chapters examine and explore in detail the etiological framework for explaining suicidal behaviour as well as the stability and change in methods of suicide. The book provides a synthesis of the existing studies of suicide and new and original evidence on the relationship between suicide and social factors. It is argued that study of suicide is an instructive way of understanding the social organisation of death and dying in contemporary Australian society. The empirical evidence presented in the book shows that suicidal behaviour like other forms of social behaviour has important symbolic content and in the final analysis it is shaped by the same social forces which influence and regulate the other general patterns of social life in society. In other words all the reasons which are good enough to live for are also good enough to die for. It is the first systematic sociological study of suicide in Australia. It should be of interest to university students and academics in the fields of sociology, psychology, medicine, law and social work. It can be used as a textbook in specialised university courses in these fields. Its contents should also be of interest to police, legal professionals, teachers and members of welfare professions. It is written in a manner to make its contents accessible to members of the general public who are interested in the subject and would like to expand and deepen their understanding of the problem of suicide which now claims one life every four hours in Australia.

Articles published in journals as a result of this research are listed in Appendix 2 of this report.