Long-term risk factors for suicide in suicide attempters examined at a medical emergency in patient unit: results from a 32-year follow-up study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVES: The overall aim of this study is to gain greater knowledge about the risk of suicide among suicide attempters in a very long-term perspective. Specifically, to investigate possible differences in clinical risk factors at short (≤5 years) versus long term (>5 years), with the hypothesis that risk factors differ in the shorter and longer perspective. DESIGN: Prospective study with register-based follow-up for 21-32 years. SETTING: Medical emergency inpatient unit in the south of Sweden. PARTICIPANTS: 1044 individuals assessed by psychiatric consultation when admitted to medical inpatient care for attempted suicide during 1987-1998. OUTCOME MEASURES: Suicide and all-cause mortality. RESULTS: At follow-up, 37.6% of the participants had died, 7.2% by suicide and 53% of these within 5 years of the suicide attempt. A diagnosis of psychosis at baseline represented the risk factor with the highest HR at long-term follow-up, that is, >5 years, followed by major depression and a history of attempted suicide before the index attempt. The severity of a suicide attempt as measured by SIS (Suicide Intent Scale) showed a non-proportional association with the hazard for suicide over time and was a relevant risk factor for suicide only within the first 5 years after an attempted suicide. CONCLUSIONS: The risk of suicide after a suicide attempt persists for up to 32 years after the index attempt. A baseline diagnosis of psychosis or major depression or earlier suicide attempts continued to be relevant risk factors in the very long term. The SIS score is a better predictor of suicide risk at short term, that is, within 5 years than at long term. This should be considered in the assessment of suicide risk and the implementation of care for these individuals.


External organisations
  • Region Skåne
  • Blekinge Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychiatry


  • depression & mood disorders, psychiatry, schizophrenia & psychotic disorders, suicide & self-harm
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere038794
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch