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April 3, 2002
CDC releases study on non-traditional risk factors for nearly lethal suicide attempts
Employing an innovative approach to studying suicide attempters who either used a highly lethal method or would have died without medical help, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified several non-traditional health risk factors that have rarely been included in suicide research. These non-traditional health associated risk factors include: acute alcohol use, changing residences, existing medical conditions, and characteristics of impulsive suicide behavior. The findings are published in a special supplement to the spring edition of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (SLTB). SLTB is the official Journal of the American Association of Suicidology.
This supplement includes nine papers based on the data from a case-control study conducted over a three-year period in Houston, Texas. CDC's experts in injury research focused on persons 13 to 34 years of age who survived nearly lethal suicide attempts. Interviews with these survivors provided a valuable understanding about the factors that influence suicide among teens and young adults. Some of the key findings are:
Drinking within three hours of the attempt was the most important alcohol-related risk factor for nearly lethal suicide attempts, more important than alcoholism and binge drinking.
Moving in the past 12 months was associated with an increased risk for a nearly lethal suicide attempt. Frequency of moving, distance moved, recency of move, and difficulty staying in touch were all factors that increased the likelihood of nearly lethal suicide attempts.
Nearly 1 in 4 of those who made nearly lethal suicide attempts reported that less than 5 minutes passed between their decisions to attempt suicide and their actual attempts, indicating impulsive attempts.
Young men with medical conditions were more than 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than those without such conditions.
Nearly-lethal suicide attempters more often sought help from family and friends than from professionals.
"Suicide takes a heavy-toll on our Nation's health. In 1999, suicide was the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults. This groundbreaking study reflects CDC's commitment to better understand the science of suicide prevention," said Sue Binder, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "By using the public health approach to identify and study these non-traditional risk factors for suicide, we can help health care professionals and communities develop more effective services and programs to reduce suicide attempts."
CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.
Notes to the Editor:
Abstracts for the Journal supplement are available online at:
For additional information from CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control visit: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention visit: http://www.mentalhealth.org/suicideprevention
For more information on reporting suicide see "Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media" at: http://www.suicidology.org/media/7.html
This page last updated April 3, 2002
United States Department of Health and Human Services