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Suicide, stressors, and the life cycle [published erratum appears in Am J Psychiatry 1991 Jul;148(7):960]
Am J Psychiatry 1991;148:524-527.
An erratum to this article has been published | view the erratum
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OBJECTIVE: Relationships between stressors and suicide might be expected to vary with stages of the life cycle. The purpose of this study was to examine this possibility. METHOD: The authors examined the first 204 consecutive cases from the San Diego Suicide Study, a federally funded investigation of 283 suicides, for possible relationships between suicide and age and the frequency of specific stressors. Information was gathered from family members, spouses, acquaintances, employers, other witnesses, physicians, and other professionals by trained interviewers using a structured format. Hospital, physician, therapist, school, and police records were also included when available. DSM-III diagnoses were made by consensus of two investigators. Life events information was also reviewed independently by the investigators to determine stressors (if any) for each case. RESULTS: Of the 202 subjects for whom data were available, 195 (97%) had one or more stressors; 137 male subjects had a total of 272 stressors, and 58 female subjects had a total of 115 stressors. The authors found predictable patterns of the three most common stressor groups--conflict-separation-rejection, economic problems, and medical illness. The majority of the stressors among subjects 80 years old or older were illnesses. The only significant difference between the sexes was that more men than women had economic problems as a stressor. CONCLUSIONS: The variations in the patterns of stressors found in this study of suicides coincide with adult development theory. The lack of population comparison subjects and stressor scoring validation, however, limits the predictive value of these data in assessing suicidal persons.

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