A new Swedish study published yesterday, says that the method used in attempting suicide can usually predict the risk of that person actually succeeding. The study concluded that poisoning and cutting are the least risky suicide attempts.
Swedish scientists founded their research on observing 48,649 people who attempted suicide between 1973 and 1982, and data was registered until the end of 2003. The team from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm noted that during this period of time, 5,740 people (12 percent) killed themselves. The suicide risk differed, depending on the method used at the previous suicide attempt.
The most common attempt was self poisoning and this was logically the most successful method of later suicides (4,270). Still, scientists stress that the highest suicide risk, 54 percent in men and 57 percent in women, is given by attempted hanging, suffocation or strangulation. According to their observations, these people has six times more chances of succeeding suicide if they had previously tried one of these methods. Even if the characteristics of suicide attempts have not been thoroughly analyzed (planning, violence, etc.) factors like education, gender, age, immigrant status, and psychiatric illness have been taken into consideration. The result, more than 85 percent of these type of suicide attempts were followed by the subject's death within a year.
The risk of death after a suicide attempt is around 10 percent, for people being followed up five to 35 years after. Other methods like gassing, jumping from heights, drowning or using explosives, present lower risks than for hanging but odds are still 1.8 to 4 times higher that cutting or poisoning – 13% or 12.3% of later deaths.
The researchers team concluded that "the method used at a suicide attempt predicts later completed suicide also when controlling for sociodemographic confounding and co-occurring psychiatric disorder. Intensified aftercare is warranted after suicide attempts involving hanging, drowning, firearms or explosives, jumping from a height, or gassing."
Keith Hawton, Professor of Psychiatry at Warneford Hospital in Oxford, said that this study is very important for the adequate handling and treatment of patients who have attempted to harm themselves. He adds that though the way they attempt suicide shows what risks exist later on, people should remember that the attempt in itself is a clue for later suicide.