Objective: To compare secular trends in method-specific suicide rates among young people in Australia and England & Wales between 1968 and 1997.
Methods: Australian data were obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and for England & Wales from the Office for National Statistics. Overall and method-specific suicide rates for 15-34 year old males and females were calculated using ICD codes E950-9 and E980-9 except E988.8.
Results: In both settings, suicide rates have almost doubled in young males over the past 30 years (from 16.8 to 32.9 per 100,000 in Australia and from 10.1 to 19.0 in England & Wales). Overall rates have changed little in young females. In both sexes and in both settings there have been substantial increases in suicide by hanging (5-7 fold increase in Australia and four-fold increase in England & Wales). There have also been smaller increases in gassing in the 1980s and '90s. In females, the impact of these increases on overall rates has been offset by a decline in drug overdose, the most common method in females.
Conclusions: Rates of male suicide have increased substantially in both settings in recent years, and hanging has become an increasingly common method of suicide. The similarity in observed trends in both settings supports the view that such changes may have common causes. Research should focus on understanding why hanging has increased in popularity and what measures may be taken to diminish it.