Researchers Focus on Identifying Suicide Risk Factors

Jun 2013

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, more than one million people each year die by suicide. Unfortunately, while there are certain recognized factors that can make it more likely someone will act on suicidal tendencies, our Dallas, TX suicide lawyers know that it can be difficult to predict with any accuracy when someone will try to take his or her own life.

Recently, however, researchers have been working to better understand what suicide risk factors are the best predictor of who will attempt to die by suicide. The findings of the study were published in the journal Psychological Medicine and reported on by The Atlantic.

Which Risk Factors Predict Suicide Deaths

To better understand how risk factors affect deaths from suicide, researchers at Land University in Sweden and at Stanford University in the United States worked together to conduct a population-wide study. Census data, Sweden’s national death registry and both inpatient and outpatient registries were used to obtain information on more than seven million Swedish adults. Based on this information, researchers attempted to determine both the suicide rates and the risk factors leading up to the suicide deaths.

According to the results, there were more than 8,721 members who died by suicide from the years 2001 to 2008. Researchers studied the deaths and determined that:

  • Depression was the risk factor with the highest overall link to suicides. Depression created a 32-fold increased risk of suicide and suicide deaths were most common within 13 weeks of an initial diagnosis of depression.
  • The chances of death due to suicide were highest for individuals with any type of psychiatric diagnosis.
  • A poor social network caused an increase in the suicide risk but only by a small margin. Both divorce and being unmarried were considered indicators of a poorer social network.
  • Men were approximately three times as likely as women to die by suicide.
  • Men who were young, single and had a low level of education had a higher suicide risk than women.
  • Mental illness was a stronger risk factor for suicide for women than for men.
  • Among the social risk factors for suicide, women were most affected by unemployment and men were most affected by being single.
  • Patients with physical ailments were also more likely to die by suicide. Those with cancer, spine disorders, obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, or stroke history were between 1.4 and 2.1 times as likely to die by suicide as people without these medical problems.

This study was one of the largest population-wide studies to consider a variety of different risk factors and their implications on suicide deaths.  The study also revealed that around 57 percent of women and 45 percent of men visited a doctor within three months of the death by suicide, and that 29.5 percent of women and 21.7 percent of men had seen a doctor as recently as two-weeks prior.

There are clearly lots of missed opportunities for doctors to identify suicide risks and to take action, and healthcare professionals need to get better at understanding the predictors of suicide so they can provide help to those who reach out.

If you lost a loved  one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

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