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The incidence of suicidal thoughts in the British population is unknown.
To determine the factors associated with the development of, and recovery from, suicidal thoughts.
An 18-month follow-up survey investigated 2404 of the adults who took part in the second National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey.
The annual incidence of suicidal thoughts was 2.3%. Incidence was highest in women and among 16- to 24-year-olds. Increased incidence was associated with not being in a stable relationship, low levels of social support and being unemployed. Fifty-seven percent of those with suicidal thoughts at baseline had recovered by the 18-month follow-up interview.
Risk factors for suicidal thoughts are similar to those for completed suicide, although the age and gender patterning is different. Fewer than 1 in 200 people who experience suicidal thoughts go on to complete suicide. Further study into explanations for the differences in the epidemiology of suicidal thoughts and suicide is crucial to understanding the pathways (protective and precipitating) linking suicidal thoughts to completed suicide and should help inform effective prevention of suicide.
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