Latest news | 26 Sep 2018

Suicide remains a leading cause of death but how many of these are a result of eating disorders?



26 September 2018 – 2017 Causes of death data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today tells us that suicide is again a leading cause of death for Australians. Sadly, while we know that the mortality rate for people with eating disorders is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses, and over 12 times higher than that for people without eating disorders, we still don’t know how many of the suicides reported today were as a direct result of eating disorders.

The Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan says of the data released today:

“For the first time this year the Australian Bureau of Statistics has not only reported on causes of death but co morbidity factors when it comes to deaths by suicide. We welcome this new information but continue our call for the need to more effectively record and report on eating disorders when it comes to mortality data.“

“Evidence tells us that the cause of suicide is complex. Investigating the links between specific mental illnesses and suicide can help us better understand this complexity and work towards prevention and early intervention.”

“While we acknowledge the difficulty in recording eating disorders, they are consistently underrepresented when it comes to research and data sets in government and health settings. This can and must change if we are to effectively plan for prevention and ultimately save lives.”

Mental health advocate and mother, Judy Goldsmith agrees and makes a personal plea for this crucial lifesaving work to continue:

“After Alana’s death by suicide I was shocked when I received her death certificate stating her cause of death as “multiple injuries” and the section marked “Duration of previous illness” left blank. No mention was made of Anorexia Nervosa and no mention of suicide. I hoped to have these omissions corrected as one of the many outcomes of the Inquest into her death.”

“Four years ago, a Coroner considered findings into my daughter Alana’s suicide death and recognised her eating disorder’s devastating impact as a contributing cause of death. We must look at the circumstances of a person’s life before they died not simplify a complex history of mental illness by reporting on the immediate cause of death.”

“I welcome the information the ABS has starting reporting on this year but we must see more factors such as eating disorders being both recorded and publicly reported. If we can’t count them, they don’t count!”

Headline statistics released today include:

  • 3,128 Australians reported as dying by suicide in 2017
  • 2,348 males and 780 females were reported as taking their own lives
  • The largest increases reported were in QLD, NSW and ACT
  • The biggest increase reporting by age group was 45-54 years
  • In NSW and QLD, the majority of deaths reported were in regional urban settings.

Information related to co-morbidity data includes:

  • 80% of reported suicides showed co-morbidities as co-occurring factors
  • Mood disorders, including depression, were shown to be most commonly recorded as 43% of all suicides
  • Drug and alcohol reported as factors in 29.5% of reported suicides
  • Anxiety reported as a factor in 17.5% of reported suicides.

The Butterfly Foundation acknowledges every one of the 3,128 deaths reported today and the pain and suffering of their loved ones. Today and every day we will continue to advocate for the all people affected by eating disorders and negative body image – a person with the illness, their family and their friends.

For a detailed summary of ABS Causes of Death data, specifically in relation to suicide visit


Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 or

For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14

Media Contact:
Danielle Cuthbert – The Butterfly Foundation
0421 978 940  |
A reminder to refer to safe reporting guidelines on body image and eating disorders

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