Trends in suicide ideation, plans, gestures, and attempts in the United States, 1990-1992 to 2001-2003

JAMA. 2005 May 25;293(20):2487-95. doi: 10.1001/jama.293.20.2487.


Context: Little is known about trends in suicidal ideation, plans, gestures, or attempts or about their treatment. Such data are needed to guide and evaluate policies to reduce suicide-related behaviors.

Objective: To analyze nationally representative trend data on suicidal ideation, plans, gestures, attempts, and their treatment.

Design, setting, and participants: Data came from the 1990-1992 National Comorbidity Survey and the 2001-2003 National Comorbidity Survey Replication. These surveys asked identical questions to 9708 people aged 18 to 54 years about the past year's occurrence of suicidal ideation, plans, gestures, attempts, and treatment. Trends were evaluated by using pooled logistic regression analysis. Face-to-face interviews were administered in the homes of respondents, who were nationally representative samples of US English-speaking residents.

Main outcome measure: Self-reports about suicide-related behaviors and treatment in the year before interview.

Results: No significant changes occurred between 1990-1992 and 2001-2003 in suicidal ideation (2.8% vs 3.3%; P = .43), plans (0.7% vs 1.0%; P = .15), gestures (0.3% vs 0.2%; P = .24), or attempts (0.4%-0.6%; P = .45), whereas conditional prevalence of plans among ideators increased significantly (from 19.6% to 28.6%; P = .04), and conditional prevalence of gestures among planners decreased significantly (from 21.4% to 6.4%; P = .003). Treatment increased dramatically among ideators who made a gesture (40.3% vs 92.8%) and among ideators who made an attempt (49.6% vs 79.0%).

Conclusions: Despite a dramatic increase in treatment, no significant decrease occurred in suicidal thoughts, plans, gestures, or attempts in the United States during the 1990s. Continued efforts are needed to increase outreach to untreated individuals with suicidal ideation before the occurrence of attempts and to improve treatment effectiveness for such cases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mental Disorders
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide / trends*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / trends*
  • United States / epidemiology