, Volume 36, Issue 12, pp 590-594

Suicidal ideation in the Finnish general population. A 12-month follow-up study

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Background The epidemiology of suicidal ideation has remained a relatively unstudied area. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence, prevalence and persistence of and recovery from suicidal ideation in a sample of the Finnish general population. Methods Postal questionnaires including the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were mailed to the study subjects (n = 1,593) at baseline and on follow-up after 12 months. The suicidality item of BDI was used to screen suicidal ideation. Results The 12-month incidence (4.6 %) and prevalence of suicidal ideation (14.7 %) were higher in men than in women (3.1 % and 9.2 %, respectively). Sixty-nine per cent of those men and 59 % of those women who had suicidal ideation at baseline continued to have suicidal thoughts on follow-up. Suicidal ideation and the severity of depression associated strongly. Over half of the men and women who had persistent suicidal ideation had not visited any health services for help with psychological distress during the 12-month follow-up period. Daily smoking associated with a decreased probability of recovery from suicidal ideation. Conclusions Suicidal ideation is common and persistent at the population level. Seeking professional help for depression with suicidal tendencies is disproportionately low in relation to the high prevalence of suicidal ideation.

Accepted: 19 September 2001