Suicide has been researched at length in recent decades. With the current economic downturn, suicide rates have increased. Understanding what factors make someone more vulnerable to suicide is imperative in order to prevent this rate from rising even further. Previous research has shown that the existence of a mental health problem increases the risk for suicide. Posttraumatic stress, depression, and eating and food issues can put someone at increased risk for suicide.
Stressful live events (SLEs) also directly impact the rate of suicide. Individuals who experience significant losses to their financial, emotional, or physical health or are subjected to violence or abuse may also be predisposed to suicide. A family history of suicide is another risk factor that is often reported in research. However, until now, no study has looked at how SLEs impact the risk for suicide independent of mental health status. Understanding if the general population is equally as vulnerable to suicide as those who struggle with psychological problems could expand existing intervention efforts to include more individuals at risk. That was the goal of a recent study led by Yungqiao Wang of the Department of Psychology at the University of Manitoba in Canada. Wang collected data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and controlled for mental health conditions in order to determine how SLEs impacted suicide rates.
Wang examined the frequency and types of SLEs that occurred in over 34,000 individuals in the 12 months prior to the assessments and found that financial stressors had the largest impact on attempted suicides, followed closely by violent assault. Specifically, financial problems led to more suicide attempts than nearly all of the psychological conditions, except depression. Violent assault also increased the risk for suicide above most other mental health problems. Wang also discovered that the participants risk for suicide increased with the number of SLEs. In particular, those participants who had more than three SLEs in the prior year were the most likely to attempt suicide, regardless of mental health status. Wang believes the implications of this novel study are significant. He added, “Family members and health care providers should be aware of these findings to ensure that recent occurrences of these kinds of SLEs prompt appropriate assessment and intervention for suicidal behaviors.”
Wang, Y., Sareen, J., Afifi, T. O., Bolton, S. L., Johnson., E. A. (2012). Recent stressful life events and suicide attempt. Psychiatric Annals, 42.3, 101-108.
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