Suicide attempts in the United States: the role of physical illness

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Apr;56(8):1783-8. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00174-0.


The study aimed to determine the relationship between physical illness, mental disorder, and the likelihood of suicide attempt among adults aged 15-54 in the United States. Data were drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey (N=8,098), a national probability sample of adults in the United States. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to determine the relationship between self-reported physical illness and the likelihood of suicide attempt. Lung disease (OR=1.8 (1.1, 2.7)), ulcer (OR=2.1 (1.3, 3.4)), and AIDS (OR=44.1 (10.5, 185.6)) were each associated with a significantly increased likelihood of suicide attempt, independent of the effects of mental disorders. Consistent with previous studies, the number of physical illnesses was linearly related to an increased odds of suicide attempt (OR=1.3 (1.2, 1.5)). Possible mechanisms for these associations are discussed. These findings call for the inclusion of a range of physical health problems, especially chronic illnesses, in future research on suicide attempts in the population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / classification
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Comorbidity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / classification
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology