Research priorities in suicide prevention: an examination of Australian-based research 2007-11

Aust Health Rev. 2014 Feb;38(1):18-24. doi: 10.1071/AH13058.


Objective: Suicide prevention, including among youth, has been a national priority in Australia for some time. Yet despite this, rates of suicide, and related behaviour, remain high. The aim of this study was to review all suicide-prevention research that had been conducted in Australia between January 2007 and December 2011, with a specific emphasis on studies relating to young people, in order to determine whether or not we are prioritising the sort of research that can adequately inform policy development and guide 'best practice'.

Methods: Data were collected from two sources. First, several electronic databases were searched in October 2012 in order to identify published journal articles relating to suicide, written by Australian authors. Second, summary data obtained from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund and the Australian Research Council were examined in order to identify currently funded studies that relate to suicide. Studies were then classified according to whether or not they had a focus on youth, and according to research type, type of suicide-related behaviour under investigation and method of suicide.

Results: There were 224 articles published and 12 grants funded that specifically focussed on suicide-related behaviour over the period January 2007 to December 2011. Of these, 47 articles (21%) and five funded grants (42%) focussed on young people. Youth studies, in particular those reported in the published articles, tended to be epidemiological in nature and only six of the published articles (13%) and two of the funded grants related to intervention studies.

Conclusions: Although the focus on youth is welcome, the lack of intervention studies is disappointing. Given that rates of suicide and related behaviour remain high, there is a clear need for a stronger body of intervention research that can inform national policy, if we are to successfully develop effective approaches to reducing suicide risk. WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT THE TOPIC? Although the prevention of youth suicide has been a national priority for some time, rates of suicide and suicide-related behaviour remain high among young Australians. Much is known about the epidemiology of suicide; however, relatively little is known about which interventions may be effective in reducing this risk. Previous research suggests that although youth receive a reasonable amount of research attention in Australia, the majority of studies focus on epidemiological as opposed to intervention research. WHAT DOES THIS PAPER ADD? This paper reviews all suicide research that has been conducted in Australia between 2007 and 2011 in order to examine how much attention is currently given to studies relating to youth, and the relative priority given to intervention and epidemiological studies. Our findings support those reported previously, which suggest that although a significant proportion of suicide research focuses on youth, relatively little attention continues to be given to intervention studies. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTITIONERS? This paper argues that further intervention research is needed if we are to build a sufficiently strong evidence base that can effectively inform policy development and guide best practice when it comes to preventing youth suicide in Australia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Australia
  • Bibliometrics
  • Cause of Death
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Research*
  • Suicide / prevention & control*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data