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Psychol Med. 2007 Nov;37(11):1551-62. Epub 2007 May 31.

Identifying correlates of suicide attempts in suicidal ideators: a population-based study.

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McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Hospital Research Center, Montreal, Canada.



Identification of factors that distinguish between ideators who act on their suicidal thoughts from those who do not is an important clinical and research objective.


We examined correlates of suicide attempts in suicidal ideators, members of a French-Canadian, school-based cohort. Suicidal thoughts were evaluated in adolescence and early adulthood in the total sample of suicidal ideators, who were then stratified into subgroups consisting of persistent ideators, male ideators and female ideators.


In addition to persistent suicidal ideas [odds ratios (ORs) 2.1-2.8], Axis I psychopathology, female gender and childhood sexual abuse (CSA) were the most consistent correlates of suicide attempts. Externalizing disorders were significant contributors in persistent ideators [drug misuse: OR 2.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-6.9] and in male ideators in particular (disruptive disorders: OR 5.9, 95% CI 2.2-16.0). In women, psychiatric co-morbidity also had a significant effect (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.1). CSA was of relevance in both women (OR 1.2, 95% CI 1.1-1.4) and persistent ideators (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1-1.5). Personality traits showed gender-specific contribution with affective instability (OR 1.1, 95% CI 1.01-1.1) and anxiousness (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1-1.7) contributing in men and disruptive aggression (OR 1.1, 95% CI 1.03-1.3) in women.


Correlates of suicide attempts in suicidal ideators vary as a function of the persistence of suicidal ideas and gender. This heterogeneity across subgroups of suicidal ideators may be attributed, at least in part, to differences between the sexes, early environmental adversity, maladaptive personality, and psychiatric symptoms. Further exploration and continued prospective follow-up is necessary to examine these possibilities.

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