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Self-reported life-weariness, death-wishes, suicidal ideation, suicidal plans and suicide attempts in general population surveys in the north of Sweden 1986 and 1996.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Sciences, WHO Collaborating Centre, UmeĆ„ University, Sweden.



The aims of present study were to assess the prevalence of suicidal expression in the general population, to compare prevalences over time, to identify risk groups and to examine the evidence regarding the proposition that there is a continuous sequence of suicidal expressions with an underlying gradient of severity.


Two postal questionnaire studies were conducted, in 1986 and in 1996, involving representative samples of about 700 and 1000 persons respectively, in the age range 18-65 years. Response rates of 76% and 64%, respectively, were obtained.


A higher proportion (34%) reported some degree of suicidal expression during the past year in the 1996 survey, compared to 1986 (23%). This was mainly attributed to higher reporting of life-weariness and death-wishes, since there was a simultaneous lower reporting of suicidal ideation (12.5% vs 8.6%). The total lifetime incidence of suicidal expression was identical (52%) in both studies. Respective proportions of 0.6% and 0.2% reported that they had made a suicide attempt during the last year, and 2.6% and 2.7%, respectively, during their lifetime. Higher prevalences of combined suicidal expression during the previous year were reported by women, younger persons, those living alone and women living in urban areas. Concerning suicidal ideation during last year, no gender differences were found. For a total of 21% of those reporting some degree of suicidal expressions during the past year, no simple cumulative relationship between the different types of suicidal expression was found.


It is possible to use a postal questionnaire approach for studies on suicidal expression in the general population, and the study indicates that such suicidal expression is fairly prevalent. The pronounced gender differences concerning most types of suicidal behaviours and expression are not valid for suicidal ideation, which is important to consider in a preventional context.

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