Suicidal behavior is a leading cause of injury and death worldwide. Information about
the epidemiology of such behavior is important for policy-making and prevention. The
authors reviewed government data on suicide and suicidal behavior and conducted a
systematic review of studies on the epidemiology of suicide published from 1997 to
2007. The authors' aims were to examine the prevalence of, trends in, and risk and
protective factors for suicidal behavior in the United States and cross-nationally.
The data revealed significant cross-national variability in the prevalence of suicidal
behavior but consistency in age of onset, transition probabilities, and key risk factors.
Suicide is more prevalent among men, whereas nonfatal suicidal behaviors are more
prevalent among women and persons who are young, are unmarried, or have a psychiatric
disorder. Despite an increase in the treatment of suicidal persons over the past decade,
incidence rates of suicidal behavior have remained largely unchanged. Most epidemiologic
research on suicidal behavior has focused on patterns and correlates of prevalence.
The next generation of studies must examine synergistic effects among modifiable risk
and protective factors. New studies must incorporate recent advances in survey methods
and clinical assessment. Results should be used in ongoing efforts to decrease the
significant loss of life caused by suicidal behavior.