A life course theory of suicide risk

Suicide Life Threat Behav. Fall 1994;24(3):234-44.


The three distinct suicide cycles reported since the late 19th century have been explained using sociological and biological theories. Despite their obvious differences, both theories operate through motivation. Like other aspects of suicide, however, such cycles can also be explained by opportunity. Analysis of recent findings on age- and sex-specific suicide cycles illustrates a fundamental confound of motivation and opportunity, and underscores the need for a theory of suicide that is based on risk (risk = motivation x opportunity), and that is situated in a framework of age- and sex-specific life course contingencies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Periodicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology