Cross-national comparisons of attitudes towards suicide and suicidal persons in university students from 12 countries

Scand J Psychol. 2016 Dec;57(6):554-563. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12318. Epub 2016 Aug 18.


This paper reports the results of a comparative investigation of attitudes to suicide and suicidal persons in 5,572 university students from 12 countries. Participants filled out two scales measuring attitudes towards suicide and suicidal persons, a measure of psychological distress together with the questions about suicidal behavior. Results showed that the highest suicide acceptance scores were observed in Austrian, UK, Japanese and Saudi Arabian samples and the lowest scores were noted in Tunisian, Turkish, Iranian and Palestinian samples. While the highest social acceptance scores for a suicidal friend were noted in Turkish, US, Italian and Tunisian samples, the lowest scores were seen in Japanese, Saudi Arabian, Palestinian and Jordanian samples. Compared to participants with a suicidal past, those who were never suicidal displayed more internal barriers against suicidal behavior. Men were more accepting of suicide than women but women were more willing to help an imagined suicidal peer. Participants with accepting attitudes towards suicide but rejecting attitudes towards suicidal persons reported more suicidal behavior and psychological distress, and were more often from high suicide rate countries and samples than their counterparts. They are considered to be caught in a fatal trap in which most predominant feelings of suicidality such as hopelessness or helplessness are likely to occur. We conclude that in some societies such as Japan and Saudi Arabia it might be difficult for suicidal individuals to activate and make use of social support systems.

Keywords: Suicidal attitudes; cross-national; suicide attempt; suicide ideation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Students / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide*
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Turkey
  • Universities
  • Young Adult