Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

How intelligence and emotional control are related to suicidal behavior across the life course – A register-based study with 38-year follow-up

  • Nora Hansson Bittár (a1), Daniel Falkstedt (a2) and Alma Sörberg Wallin (a2)

Abstract

Background

Both low intelligence and low emotional control have previously been linked to a higher risk of suicide, but it is unknown whether the associations apply consistently over the life course.

Methods

The study was based on data on intelligence and emotional control, collected from 48 738 Swedish men conscripted in 1969–1970, at ages 18–20 years. The data were linked to national registers giving information on subsequent suicidal behavior (completed and attempted suicide) up to the age of 59 years. The associations were investigated using logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards regression models, with adjustment for childhood socioeconomic status.

Results

Intelligence and emotional control assessed in late adolescence both showed robust inverse associations with suicidal behavior over the 38-year follow-up. However, while the association between lower intelligence and higher rate of suicidal behavior remained the same throughout (~40% increased hazard per unit on a five-level scale), the association between lower emotional control and suicidal behavior was substantially stronger in early adulthood (~100% increased hazard per unit) than in late middle age (~30% increased hazard per unit).

Conclusions

The study adds to previous research by showing that the association between poor emotional control and subsequent suicide risk in men becomes weaker over the life course, while the association between low intelligence and suicide risk seems to be constant. The particularly high suicide risk of young men with poor emotional control may motivate targeted prevention efforts.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      How intelligence and emotional control are related to suicidal behavior across the life course – A register-based study with 38-year follow-up
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      How intelligence and emotional control are related to suicidal behavior across the life course – A register-based study with 38-year follow-up
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      How intelligence and emotional control are related to suicidal behavior across the life course – A register-based study with 38-year follow-up
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Nora Hansson Bittár, E-mail: nora.hansson@gmail.com

References

Hide All
Åberg, MAI, Nyberg, J, Torén, K, Sörberg, A, Kuhn, HG and Waern, M (2014) Cardiovascular fitness in early adulthood and future suicidal behaviour in men followed for up to 42 years. Psychological Medicine 44, 779788.
Allebeck, P, Allgulander, C and Fisher, LD (1988) Predictors of completed suicide in a cohort of 50465 young men: role of personality and deviant behaviour. British Medical Journal 297, 176178.
Andersson, L, Allebeck, P, Gustafsson, JE and Gunnell, D (2008) Association of IQ scores and school achievement with suicide in a 40-year follow-up of a Swedish cohort. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 118, 99105.
Batty, GD, Whitley, E, Deary, IJ, Gale, CR, Tynelius, P and Rasmussen, F (2010) Psychosis alters association between IQ and future risk of attempted suicide: cohort study of 1 109 475 Swedish men. British Medical Journal 340, c2506.
Brezo, J, Paris, J and Turecki, G (2006) Personality traits as correlates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide completions: a systematic review. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 113, 180206.
Calvin, CM, Batty, GD, Der, G, Brett, CE, Taylor, A, Pattie, A, Čukić, I and Deary, IJ (2017) Childhood intelligence in relation to major causes of death in 68 year follow-up: prospective population study. British Medical Journal 357, j2708.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T (2016) Personality and Individual Differences (3rd ed.), pp. 5354. Glasgow: John Wiley & Sons.
Cuijpers, P, Smit, F, Penninx, BW, de Graaf, R, ten Have, M and Beekman, AT (2010) Economic costs of neuroticism: a population-based study. Archives of General Psychiatry 67, 10861093.
Deary, IJ, Weiss, A and Batty, GD (2010) Intelligence and personality as predictors of illness and death how researchers in differential psychology and chronic disease epidemiology are collaborating to understand and address health inequalities. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 11, 5379.
Gottfredson, LS (1997) Mainstream science on intelligence: an editorial with 52 signatories, history, and bibliography. Intelligence 24, 1323.
Gottfredson, LS and Deary, IJ (2004) Intelligence predicts health and longevity, but why? Current Directions in Psychological Science 13, 14.
Gow, AJ, Johnson, W, Pattie, A, Brett, CE, Roberts, B, Starr, JM and Deary, IJ (2011) Stability and change in intelligence from age 11 to ages 70, 79, and 87: the Lothian Birth Cohorts of 1921 and 1936. Psychology and Aging 26, 232.
Gravseth, HM, Mehlum, L, Bjerkedal, T and Kristensen, P (2010) Suicide in young Norwegians in a life course perspective: population-based cohort study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 64, 407412.
Gunnell, D and Lewis, G (2005) Studying suicide from the life course perspective: implications for prevention. The British Journal of Psychiatry 187, 206208.
Gunthert, KC, Cohen, LH and Armeli, S (1999) The role of neuroticism in daily stress and coping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77, 10871100.
Jiang, GX, Hadlaczky, G and Wasserman, D (2014) Självmord i Sverige–Data: 19802013. Nationellt centrum för suicidforskning och prevention av psykisk ohälsa (NASP) vid Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.
Jorm, AF (1989) Modifiability of trait anxiety and neuroticism: a meta-analysis of the literature. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 23, 2129.
Karlsson, H, Ahlborg, B, Dalman, C and Hemmingsson, T (2010) Association between erythrocyte sedimentation rate and IQ in Swedish males aged 18–20. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 24, 868873.
Kendler, KS, Gardner, CO and Prescott, CA (2003) Personality and the experience of environmental adversity. Psychological Medicine 33, 11931202.
Lager, A, Seblova, D, Falkstedt, D and Lövden, M (2016) Cognitive and emotional outcomes after prolonged education: a quasi-experiment on 320 182 Swedish boys. International Journal of Epidemiology 46, 303311.
Lager, E, Melin, B, Hemmingsson, T and Wallin, AS (2017) The evolving relationship between premorbid intelligence and serious depression across the lifespan–A longitudinal study of 43,540 Swedish men. Journal of Affective Disorders 211, 3743.
Leon, AC, Friedman, RA, Sweeney, JA, Brown, RP and Mann, JJ (1990) Statistical issues in the identification of risk factors for suicidal behavior: the application of survival analysis. Psychiatry Research 31, 99108.
Lesage, AD, Boyer, R, Grunberg, F, Vanier, C, Morissette, R and Loyer, M (1994) Suicide and mental disorders: a case-control study of young men. The American Journal of Psychiatry 151, 1063.
Li, Z, Page, A, Martin, G and Taylor, R (2011) Attributable risk of psychiatric and socio-economic factors for suicide from individual-level, population-based studies: a systematic review. Social Science & Medicine 72, 608616.
Lilieblad, B and Ståhlberg, A (1977) Reliabilitet hos psykologiska bedömningar vid inskrivningsprovning. FOA-rapport C, 55011-H7.
Mather, M (2012) The emotion paradox in the aging brain. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1251, 3349.
Nock, MK, Borges, G, Bromet, EJ, Cha, CB, Kessler, RC and Lee, S (2008) Suicide and suicidal behavior. Epidemiologic Reviews 30, 133154.
Ormel, J, Riese, H and Rosmalen, JG (2012) Interpreting neuroticism scores across the adult life course: immutable or experience-dependent set points of negative affect? Clinical Psychology Review 32, 7179.
Osler, M, Andersen, AN and Nordentoft, M (2008) Impaired childhood development and suicidal behaviour in a cohort of Danish men born in 1953. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 62, 2328.
Plomin, R and Deary, IJ (2015) Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings. Molecular Psychiatry 20, 98108.
Potijk, MR, Janszky, I, Reijneveld, SA and Falkstedt, D (2016) Risk of coronary heart disease in men with poor emotional control: a prospective study. Psychosomatic Medicine 78, 6067.
Roberts, BW and DelVecchio, WF (2000) The rank-order consistency of personality traits from childhood to old age: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin 126, 3.
Roberts, BW, Walton, KE and Viechtbauer, W (2006) Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: a meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin 132, 1.
Roberts, BW, Kuncel, NR, Shiner, R, Caspi, A and Goldberg, LR (2007) The power of personality: the comparative validity of personality traits, socioeconomic status, and cognitive ability for predicting important life outcomes. Perspectives on Psychological Science 2, 313345.
Ross, A (1988) De värnpliktigas prestationsförmåga vid inskrivningspövningar i Sverige 1969–1979 [The conscripts' capacity at enlistment testing in Sweden 1969–1979]. Umeå: Umeå Universitet, Pedagogiska Institutionen.
Sörberg, A, Allebeck, P, Melin, B, Gunnell, D and Hemmingsson, T (2013) Cognitive ability in early adulthood is associated with later suicide and suicide attempt: the role of risk factors over the life course. Psychological Medicine 43, 4960.
Sörberg Wallin, A (2015) The Association of Intelligence with Morbidity, Mortality and Disability Pension: Epidemiological Studies in a Cohort of Swedish men. Stockholm: Institute of Environmental Medicine.
Sörberg Wallin, A, Allebeck, P, Gustafsson, J-E and Hemmingsson, T (2018a) Childhood IQ and mortality during 53 years’ follow-up of Swedish men and women. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 72, 926932.
Sörberg Wallin, A, Zeebari, Z, Lager, A, Gunnell, D, Allebeck, P and Falkstedt, D (2018b) Suicide attempt predicted by academic performance and childhood IQ: a cohort study of 26 000 children. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 137, 277286.
Stenbacka, M and Jokinen, J (2015) Violent and non-violent methods of attempted and completed suicide in Swedish young men: the role of early risk factors. BMC Psychiatry 15, 196.
Stone, AA, Schwartz, JE, Broderick, JE and Deaton, A (2010) A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, 99859990.
Tang, TZ, DeRubeis, RJ, Hollon, SD, Amsterdam, J, Shelton, R and Schalet, B (2009) Personality change during depression treatment: a placebo-controlled trial. Archives of General Psychiatry 66, 13221330.
Wiktorsson, S, Berg, AI, Billstedt, E, Duberstein, PR, Marlow, T, Skoog, I and Waern, M (2013) Neuroticism and extroversion in suicide attempters aged 75 and above and a general population comparison group. Aging & Mental Health 17, 479488.
World Health Organization (2012) Public health action for the prevention of suicide: a framework. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Document Production Services.

Keywords

Type Description Title
WORD
Supplementary materials

Hansson Bittár et al. supplementary material
Table S1

 Word (15 KB)
15 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed