Disability weights for suicidal thoughts and non-fatal suicide attempts

B.A.J. van Spijker, A. van Straten, A.J.F.M. Kerkhof, N. Hoeymans, H.F.E. Smit

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Background: Although there are disability weights available for a wide range of health states, these do not include suicidality. This makes it difficult to evaluate the severity of suicidality in comparison with other health states. The aim of this study therefore is to estimate disability weights for suicidal thoughts and for mental distress involved in non-fatal suicide attempts. Methods: A Dutch expert panel of sixteen medical practitioners who were knowledgeable about suicidality estimated disability weights (DWs) for twelve health states by interpolating them on a calibrated Visual Analogue Scale. The DWs for ten of these health states had been estimated in previous studies and were used to determine the external consistency of the panel. The other two concerned health states for suicidal thoughts and non-fatal suicide attempts. The resulting DWs could vary between 0 (best imaginable health state) and 1 (worst imaginable health state). Results: Both internal (Cronbach's α = 0.98) and external consistency of the panel were satisfactory. The DWs for suicidal thoughts and non-fatal suicide attempts were estimated to be 0.36 and 0.46 respectively. Limitations: The panel was relatively small, which resulted in broad confidence intervals. Conclusions: Suicidal thoughts are considered to be as disabling as alcohol dependence and severe asthma. The mental distress involved in non-fatal suicide attempts is thought to be comparable in disability to heroin dependence and initial stage Parkinson's. These results demonstrate the severity of suicidality. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-347
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of affective disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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