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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 1998 November; 48(436): 1759–1763.
PMCID: PMC1313268

Potential for suicide prevention in primary care? An analysis of factors associated with suicide.


BACKGROUND: General practitioners (GPs) need to be aware of the risk factors for suicide. GP records may provide clues to identifying the relative importance of such risk factors. AIMS: To identify, in suicide cases and matched controls, the patterns of consultation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness, and recording of risk factors for suicide. To examine the usefulness of data routinely collected by GPs in computerized databases to investigate treatment of patients in general practice prior to suicide. METHOD: Case control study using GP records from the General Practice Research Database (GPRD). Three controls selected for each case, matched for age, sex, and duration of registration with practice. Information extracted of the prevalence of major disease; diagnosis of, and treatment, or referral for, mental illness; frequency of recording of recent life events; and consultations with the GP in the 12 months prior to death. RESULT: Of the 339 suicide cases recorded, 80% were male, which is similar to the national percentage for this age group. Females were more likely than males to have a history of mental illness and to have been diagnosed and treated for mental illness in the 12 months before death (59% versus 35%), and women were more likely to have previously attempted suicide (47% versus 27%). There was no significant difference between males and females in period of time since last contact with GP practice, but females consulted more frequently. Twenty-nine per cent of cases had not consulted their GP in the six months prior to death. In multivariate analysis, the following were identified as independent risk factors: history of attempted suicide; untreated serious mental illness (odds ratio > 20); recent (past 12 months) marital life event; alcohol abuse; frequent consultations with GP; and previous mental illness. Recording of life events by GPs was poor. CONCLUSIONS: Females at risk of suicide are more likely than males to have been diagnosed and treated for mental illness. It is likely that GPs are under-diagnosed and under-treating males at risk. Data from the GPRD give comparable results to those from other studies. The GPRD is a potentially useful tool for research into relatively uncommon events in general practice.

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners