Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Trends in suicidal ideation in England: the National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys of 2000 and 2007

N. Spiersa1 c1, P. E. Bebbingtona2, M. S. Dennisa3, T. S. Brughaa1, S. McManusa4, R. Jenkinsa5 and H. Meltzera1 

a1 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, UK

a2 Mental Health Sciences Unit, University College London, UK

a3 College of Medicine, Swansea University, UK

a4 National Centre for Social Research, London, UK

a5 Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK


Background Recent falls in suicide rates should be accompanied by a decline in the prevalence of suicidal ideation.

Method We used a pseudo-cohort analytic strategy to examine trends in suicidal ideation measured identically in 2000 and 2007, in nationally representative English probability samples of adults aged ≥ 16 years. Suicidal ideation included tiredness of life, death wishes and thoughts of suicide. Logistic regression models were fitted to estimate trends in age-specific prevalence of suicidal ideation in the past year and past week between 2000 and 2007.

Results There were 6799 participants aged 16–71 years in 2000, and 6815 participants aged 16–78 years in 2007. There was little evidence of trends in prevalence of suicidal ideation, with the exception of women aged 44–50 years in 2007, whose prevalence was unusually high. Prevalence of suicidal ideation in the past year followed a W-shaped profile with age, with peaks at the transition to adulthood, in the forties, and in the oldest participants.

Conclusions Despite falling suicide rates, suicidal ideation did not decline overall between 2000 and 2007. This may indicate the success of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. Women aged 44–50 years in 2007 were, however, particularly prone to suicidal ideation. As they also have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of common mental disorders and the highest female suicide rate, there are clear implications for treatment access, availability and delivery in primary care.

(Received April 17 2012)

(Revised January 23 2013)

(Accepted January 29 2013)

(Online publication March 28 2013)

Key words

  • Epidemiological survey;
  • pseudo-cohort analysis;
  • suicidal ideation;
  • suicide;
  • time trend


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr N. Spiers, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, 22–28 Princess Rd West, Leicester LE1 6TP, UK. (Email: