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Predictors of suicidality across the life span: The Isle of Wight study

  • A. Pickles (a1), A. Aglan (a2), S. Collishaw (a3), J. Messer (a3), M. Rutter (a3) and B. Maughan (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 26 November 2009

Data from a representative community sample were used to explore predictors of lifetime suicidality and to examine associations between distal adolescent and more proximal adult risks.


Data are from a midlife follow-up of the Isle of Wight study, an epidemiological sample of adolescents assessed in 1968. Ratings of psychiatric symptoms and disorder, relationships and family functioning and adversity were made in adolescence; adult assessments included lifetime psychiatric history and suicidality, neuroticism and retrospective reports of childhood sexual abuse and harsh parenting.


A wide range of measures of childhood psychopathology, adverse experiences and interpersonal difficulties were associated with adult suicidality; associations were particularly strong for adolescent irritability, worry and depression. In multivariate analyses, substantial proportions of these effects could be explained by their association with adult psychopathology and neuroticism, but additional effects remained for adolescent irritability and worry.


Factors of importance for long-term suicidality risk are evident in adolescence. These include family and experiential adversities as well as psychopathology. In particular, markers of adolescent worry and irritability appeared both potent risks and ones with additional effects beyond associations with adult disorder and adult neuroticism.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Professor A. Pickles, Department of Biostatistics, Section of Epidemiology and Health Science, Stopford Building, University of Manchester, Oxford RoadManchester M13 9PT, UK. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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