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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)



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.


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.


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).


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.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, 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:


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