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March 1975

Suicide Attempts and Recent Life EventsA Controlled Comparison

Author Affiliations

From St. George's Hospital, London (Dr. Paykel), and Yale University, New Haven, Conn (Mrs. Prusoff and Dr. Myers).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975;32(3):327-333. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1975.01760210061003

Life events experienced in the six months before a suicide attempt were compared with events for two matched control groups. Suicide attempters reported four times as many events as were reported by subjects from the general population and 11/2 times as many as were reported by depressed patients prior to depressive onset. A substantial peaking of events occurred in the month before the attempt.

The excess over general population controls spanned most types of event. That over depressive onset was more selective, and it involved events with threatening implications, including undesirable events, those rated as stressful, and those outside the respondent's control. Unlike depression, suicide attempts were preceded equally by entrances and exits in the social field. Overall, the findings indicate a strong and immediate relationship between suicide attempts and life events.