Physical illness and parasuicide: evidence from the European Parasuicide Study Interview Schedule (EPSIS/WHO-EURO)

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1999;29(2):149-63. doi: 10.2190/E87K-FG03-CHEE-UJD3.


Objective: The aim of this research was to identify psychosocial characteristics which might predict future suicidal behavior in parasuicidal subjects in Europe.

Method: The interview utilized for the survey (European Parasuicide Study Interview Schedule--EPSIS) was administered to 1269 parasuicides aged fifteen years and over, within one week of hospital admission after a suicide attempt, and is part of a longitudinal multicenter study. EPSIS included a brief medical questionnaire, scales rating depression, hopelessness, self-esteem, suicide intention, questions on sociodemographic characteristics, an interview on life events and social support, a description of the parasuicidal act, and an evaluation of factors precipitating the index parasuicide.

Results: Physical illness proved to be very frequent among suicide attempters. One in two subjects suffered from an acute, chronic, or chronic disorder in relapse at the time of the parasuicide. Subjects with a physical illness were significantly more depressed, particularly subjects from the intermediate age band and ones affected by a chronic physical disease in relapse. Forty-two percent of patients with physical illness rated their somatic problem as a factor precipitating the attempt and 22 percent judged it to be major one. Furthermore, subjects with physical illnesses considered psychiatric symptoms and disorders to be relevant factors in triggering suicidal behavior, to a greater extent than non-sufferers. The importance of physical illness in contributing to suicidal behavior increased with advancing age.

Conclusions: More careful attention to somatic conditions and their subjective implications would probably augment chances of effectively preventing suicide.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Personality Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Self-Injurious Behavior
  • Sick Role*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data