Thursday, July 29, 2010

Could new tests help suicide prediction?

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among adults under 65 in the U.S. so predicting who might kill themselves could save a considerable number of lives. At the moment most attempts at prediction are based on people's answers to a series of questions and - because people might not wish to own up to thoughts about suicide - are scarcely better than tossing a coin. Researchers at Harvard University have developed two tests that they hope will improve this process. In the first test the participants had to identify the colour of different words on screen, the idea being that suicidal individuals would pay more attention to words relating to suicide than other words. In the second test participants were tested on how strongly they associated themselves with words related to either life or death/suicide. The first test predicted suicide within the next six months more accurately than well-known risk factors such as a history of suicide attempts, patients' reported likelihood of an attempt and doctor's predictions. In the second test those participants with strong associations between themselves and death/suicide were six times more likely to attempt to kill themselves within the next six months.

You can find out more about this research by clicking on the link in the title of this post.

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