Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

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

A. Picklesa1 c1, A. Aglana2, S. Collishawa3, J. Messera3, M. Ruttera3 and B. Maughana3

a1 Biostatistics, Health Methodology Research Group, Faculty of Medicine and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

a2 Division of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

a3 MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK


Background 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.

Method 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.

Results 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.

Conclusions 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.

(Received May 28 2009)

(Revised October 08 2009)

(Accepted October 12 2009)

(Online publication November 26 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor A. Pickles, Department of Biostatistics, Section of Epidemiology and Health Science, Stopford Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road Manchester M13 9PT, UK. (Email: