October 6, 2015

When the lack of news is the story

There are new (provisional) suicide figures out for the year to June, and the Herald has a story (and has embedded the summary report).

The problem with news stories on this topic is that the important statistics haven’t changed.  Suicide rates have been pretty much constant over the 9 years of data shown. It’s still true that New Zealand has a high suicide rate, that it’s much higher for men than women, and that it’s much higher for Māori than non-Māori, and lowest for Asians.

There were slightly more suicides this year than in recent years, almost the same per-capita rate as in 2011/12.  Most of the increase was in men, but it’s still not any sort of clear sign of a trend.  The Herald story leads with the changes, as news has to, but the real story is that we still haven’t managed to change anything.


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »