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October 1977

Patterns of Death Among Suicide Attempters, a Psychiatric Population, and a General Population

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada (Dr Tefft), the Monroe County Board of Mental Health, Rochester, NY (Dr Pederson), and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (Dr Babigian).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1977;34(10):1155-1161. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1977.01770220037003

• This epidemeological study examines patterns of mortality for a population of suicide attempters, a psychiatric population without suicide attempts, and a general population without psychiatric histories in order to clarify earlier reports of differential risks of death associated with these groups. Mortality patterns were investigated over an 11-year period in terms of demographic characteristics and rates of death by various causes. Suicidal deaths were given special attention to identify variables that may have predictive validity for suicide.

The results indicate that the suicide attempter group represents a distinctive demographic and mortality entity from either the psychiatric or general populations, and accounts for much of the increased risk of death previously attributed to the psychiatric population. Further, premature deaths due to suicide are strongly associated with the suicide attempter group. The psychiatric and general populations differ in relatively insignificant ways. These results suggest that a profitable approach to the prevention of suicide would be to focus on individuals who were at high risk within the suicide attempter population. Longerterm follow-up of these individuals is necessary if deaths due to suicide are to be prevented. Difficulties associated with implementation of preventive follow-up programs are also discussed.

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