Aims: To determine if there have been changes in the methods used, particularly hangings, for male youth suicides; whether any changes were similar to those for other age groups; and to what degree any changes identified may have impacted on overall suicide rates.
Method: All males aged fifteen to 24 years of age who died between 1980 and 1995 inclusive, and whose death was assigned one of the WHO external cause codes for "suicide and self-inflicted injury" (E950-E959), were selected from the New Zealand Health Information Services national mortality database.
Results: The rate for suicide by hanging was relatively low and stable in the early 1980's. By 1985 it had started to increase dramatically up until 1989, at which point it become stable again. The substantive increase in hangings was largely confined to males aged 24 years and younger. The increase in suicide by hanging cannot be attributed to substitution in methods as the rates for all other methods have also increased, albeit less dramatically.
Conclusions: Much of the increase in suicide among male youths is due to an increase in hanging. The reasons for the choice of this method are unknown, and warrant study.