Early Life Risk Factors for Adult Suicide


Researchers from the U.K. and Canada identified early life risk factors from a 1958 birth cohort that predicted suicide up to 50 years later.  The strongest factors for suicide were birth order (later-born children more at risk), young maternal age, emotional adversities (such as parental death, neglect, domestic tension, institutional care, and parental divorce/separation and bullying.  The strongest link was for persons with three or more adversities.

Abstract →

Geoffroy, M., Gunnell, D., Power, C.; Prenatal and childhood antecedents of suicide: 50-year follow-up of the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study. Psychological Medicine. April, 2014. 44(6); 1245-1256. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003329171300189X

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. My experience as a multi suicide attempter, is that rage is a major player. In the entire time I was considered suicidal I never felt sad. There was only empty despair and total hopelessness that it would ever change.
    My experience as a psych nurse was that there were some people we all knew would eventually do it. Most were calm, quietly very angry, with few obvious symptoms of depression, (i.e. sadness.). They had a chilling air about them.
    The distraught, frantic person standing on the parapet seen in the movies exists I’m sure, but for every one of those, the actual `jumper’ does it alone. Suicide can be difficult to identify. Single car accidents, unexplained drownings, accidents with firearms, fatal consequences of extreme sports may be judged as accident or misadventur by the coroner who will always try to find for the family. Historically the estate of a suicide was forfeit to the state. That’s how the `whilst the balance of his/her mind was disturbed’. A difficult issue.

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