Factors associated with the time to transition from suicidal ideation to suicide plans and attempts in the Australian general population

Matthew Sunderland*, Philip J. Batterham, Alison L. Calear, Cath Chapman, Tim Slade

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Background Suicide plans and attempts rarely occur without prior suicidal ideation but are hard to predict. Early intervention efforts need to focus on subgroups of the population who are more likely to transition from ideation to suicidal plans and attempts. The current study utilised data from a large nationally representative sample to investigate the time taken to transition and the demographic and mental health correlates of transitioning to suicidal plans and attempts among those with suicidal ideation. Methods Data were from 1237 Australians aged 16-85 years who reported suicidal thoughts at some point in their life. Discrete time survival analysis was used to retrospectively examine the time in years and correlates of transitioning from suicidal ideation to suicide plans and suicide attempt. Results The majority of those who transitioned to suicide plans or attempts typically did so within 2 years of first experiencing suicidal ideation. Several factors were independently associated with increased speed to transition, including alcohol use disorder, drug use disorder, major depressive episode, obsessive compulsive disorder, sexual minority status, and non-urban location. Older age, being male, older age of first ideation and greater family support were associated with a slower transition. Conclusion The current study suggests that pre-existing mental or substance use disorders, particularly drug use disorder, as well as sexual minority status, sex and greater family support play an important role in the transition from suicidal ideation to plans or attempts. These results highlight the potential importance of suicide prevention programs that aim to improve social connectedness.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)258-266
    Number of pages9
    JournalPsychological Medicine
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023


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