Do means matter?: Differences in characteristics of Finnish suicide completers using different methods

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2003 Nov;191(11):745-50. doi: 10.1097/01.nmd.0000095127.16296.c1.


It is unclear whether suicides by different methods are distinguishable by their sociodemographic or clinical characteristics. We set out to investigate whether completed suicides by different methods show disparities in their sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. Within the National Suicide Prevention Project in Finland, all 1,397 suicides occurring April 1, 1987, through March 31, 1988, were investigated using the psychological autopsy method. Disparities were found in characteristics of suicide completers using different methods. Intoxication suicides were more often female and had a history of both previous attempts and psychiatric treatment, whereas suicides by shooting were the opposite in character. Victims using vehicle exhaust gas were most frequently younger males who had experienced a recent interpersonal loss or other adverse event and committed suicide while intoxicated with alcohol. Thus, typical characteristics associate with certain suicide methods, probably due to differences in availability and acceptability of the methods. Various restrictions on the availability of suicide methods are likely to exert their possible impact on somewhat different subpopulations at risk. In terms of suicide prevention, it seems reasonable to target availability restrictions for certain identifiable groups of potential suicide attempters. For instance, carefulness in the practice of prescribing of intoxicating substances to particular psychiatric patients seems justified.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Demography
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors


  • Ethanol