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Psychosocial factors that distinguish between men and women who have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide: findings from a national probability sample of adults

Richardson, C., Robb, K. A., McManus, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-2711-0819 & O'Connor, R. C. (2022). Psychosocial factors that distinguish between men and women who have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide: findings from a national probability sample of adults. Psychological Medicine, 53(7), pp. 3133-3141. doi: 10.1017/s0033291721005195


Previous research has highlighted the importance of understanding which psychosocial factors distinguish between those with suicide thoughts compared to those who attempt suicide. This study aims to investigate these distinguishing factors further within an ideation-to-action framework and to explore sex differences in suicide risk.

Participants (n = 7546, aged 16+) were from the cross-sectional Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS; 2014) of England. Face-to-face and self-completion questionnaires assessed lifetime suicidal ideation, lifetime suicide attempts, demographic characteristics, life experiences, social support, health and mental illness. Multinomial logistic regression examined factors differentiating between those with suicidal ideation only and suicide attempt histories (with or without suicidal ideation) in men and women.

Overall men were less likely to report suicidal thoughts and attempts, compared to females. More factors differentiated between suicidal thoughts and attempts in women compared to in men; these included hospital admission for mental illness, below degree level qualifications, being single and childhood adversity. In men, factors which significantly differentiated between suicidal thoughts and attempts included self-report of professional diagnosis of mental illness and childhood adversity. Higher levels of social support were associated with being in the suicidal thoughts group v. in the attempts group in men.

This study identified some key differences between men and women in factors associated with suicide attempts compared to suicidal thoughts. The findings support the use of the ideation-to-action framework to investigate sex differences in suicidal behaviour. Future research should examine the extent to which these factors are associated with suicide risk over time.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Females, ideation-to-action, males, risk factors, suicide risk
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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