From Our 2010 Archives

Method of Failed Suicide May Predict Successful Attempt

TUESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- The method a person uses for an attempted suicide helps predict the future chances of a completed suicide, new research has found.

Swedish researchers looked at almost 49,000 people admitted to hospital for attempted suicide between 1973 and 1982. During 21 to 31 years of follow-up, 5,740 of those people (12%) committed suicide.

The highest risk for eventually committing suicide (54% for men and 57% for women) was among people who'd previously attempted to kill themselves by hanging, strangulation or suffocation. More than 85% of them died within one year of their prior suicide attempt, according to the report published in the July 14 online edition of BMJ.

Attempted deaths involving gassing, jumping from a height, use of a firearm or explosive, or drowning were moderately associated with later committing suicide, while poisoning or cutting were associated with a lower likelihood of later suicide, the investigators found.

"The method used at a suicide attempt predicts later completed suicide also when controlling for sociodemographic confounding and co-occurring psychiatric disorder. Intensified aftercare is warranted after suicide attempts involving hanging, drowning, firearms or explosives, jumping from a height, or gassing," Bo Runeson, psychiatry professor in the department of clinical neuroscience at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues advised.

The findings may prove important in the assessment and follow-up of patients who have attempted suicide, Keith Hawton, a professor of psychiatry at Warneford Hospital in Oxford, U.K., noted in an accompanying editorial.

However, "although use of more lethal methods of self-harm is an important index of suicide risk, it should not obscure the fact that self-harm in general is a key indicator of an increased risk of suicide," Hawton wrote.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, July 13, 2010