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Predicting Suicide Risk by Attempt Method

Runeson, B., Tidermalm, D., Dahlin, M., Lichenstein, P., & Langstrom, N. (2010). Method of attempted suicide as predictor of subsequent successful suicide: National long term cohort study. British Journal of Medicine, 341.

A research team in Stockholm found that the methods used in suicide attempts can help predict the risk of dying by suicide, as well as the risk of dying by suicide within a year of the initial attempt. People who attempt suicide by hanging, drowning, firearms, or jumping from a height are at substantially higher risk for suicide in both the short and long term than people who use other means, such as cutting or poisoning, during their initial attempt. The team suggested that intensified aftercare services should be provided for anyone who attempts suicide by hanging, drowning, firearms, jumping from a height, or gas.

The study used data from all suicide attempts by people aged 10 and older treated in hospitals in Sweden during the years 1973-1982 (n=48,449). Of these people, 5,740 (12% percent) died by suicide after a subsequent attempt (as of 2003, the last year of data used in the research). Thirty-six percent of these deaths occurred within a year of the initial suicide attempt (the “index attempt”).

The suicide attempt method most likely to predict a subsequent death by suicide, and a death by suicide within one year, was hanging/strangulation/suffocation. More than half of the people who attempted suicide by hanging/strangulation/suffocation later died by suicide.