Suicidality risk and (repeat) disaster exposure : Findings from a nationally representative population survey

Objective: Despite growing awareness of adverse disaster mental health consequences, the scarce existing evidence on the link of disaster exposure and suicidality has remained inconclusive, and the differential suicidality risk associated with distinct levels of natural and man-made disaster exposure is unknown. We therefore investigated the lifetime prevalence and risk of suicidal behaviour associated with natural and man-made disaster exposure in Australia.


Method: We utilised data from a nationally representative mental health survey (n=8,841). Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses examined the lifetime risk of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts associated with varied types and levels of disaster exposure. We focussed explicitly on natural and man-made disasters, while controlling for other types of trauma exposure, including established risk factors for suicidality.


Results: Multivariate analyses indicated that those exposed to multiple natural (AOR 2.21, 95% CI [1.04, 4.71], p<.05) or man-made disasters (AOR 3.4, 95% CI [1.20, 9.58] p<.05) were at significantly greater risk of making suicide attempts, whereas single natural or man-made disaster exposure was not associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviour.


Conclusions: Our study findings establish the differential suicidality risk associated with natural and man-made disaster exposure in Australia, and highlight the critical role of repeat disaster exposure across distinct disaster types. Suicidal behaviour may warrant increasing attention in psychosocial recovery schemes, particularly in the context of disaster-prone areas and for population groups at elevated risk of repeat disaster exposure.

Reifels, L, Spittal, M.J., Dückers, M.L.A., Mills, K., Pirkis J. | 2018
In: Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, ISSN 0033-2747 ; eISSN 0033-2747 | 81 | 2 | 158-172
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