Factors distinguishing suicide attempters from suicide ideators in a community sample: Social issues and physical health problems

A. Kate Fairweather, K. J. Anstey, B. Rodgers, P. Butterworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Few studies have focused on factors that uniquely distinguish suicide attempters from suicide ideators. This study assesses prevalence of suicide attempts among suicide ideators within a community sample; explores demographics, employment status, mental and physical health conditions, personality, life stresses and social environment as factors that may distinguish these groups; examines effects of age and gender upon suicide attempts and associated factors; and investigates the increase in suicide attempts when multiple factors related to this behaviour are present. Method. Data were drawn from the PATH Through Life Project, a community survey of 7485 people in Canberra, Australia. A subsample of 522 suicide ideators were used for this study. Results. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with suicide attempts. Physical medical conditions (OR 1·95) and negative interactions with friends (OR 1·20) were associated with an increased likelihood of suicide attempts among suicide ideators. Age and gender interaction effects for suicide attempts were found involving physical medical condition and mastery among men (OR 3·78 and 0·83 respectively) and not being employed for those aged 40-44 years (OR 8·94). A cumulative effect was found when multiple factors associated with suicide attempts were present, and the probability of an attempt was significantly elevated. Conclusions. Factors distinguishing those who attempt suicide from suicide ideators involve being unemployed, physical ill health and relationship difficulties. Contrary to expectation, this study found that ideators and attempters experience comparable levels of depression and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1245
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


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