Frequency of health care utilization in the year prior to completed suicide: A Danish nationwide matched comparative study

Henrik Schou Pedersen, Morten Fenger-Grøn, Bodil Hammer Bech, Annette Erlangsen, Mogens Vestergaard


BACKGROUND: Suicide accounts for more than 800,000 annual deaths worldwide. Some of these deaths may be preventable by timely identification of individuals at risk and effective intervention. General practitioners (GPs) may have the potential to play an important role in this process.

AIM: The present study aimed to assess the frequency of primary health care utilization in the year preceding suicide.

METHODS: Using Danish national registers, we identified all persons who died by suicide in Denmark from 1997 through 2013 and assessed the frequency of their primary care utilization and compared it with that of an age- and sex-matched reference group sampled from the background population.

RESULTS: We identified 11,191 persons who died by suicide (males: 8,095, females: 3,096). Compared with the reference group (N = 55,955), a greater proportion attended general practice in the year before index date (83% vs. 76%). In the last month before index date, these figures were 32.0% and 19.4%, respectively, corresponding to a difference of 12.0 95% CI: (11.1; 12.9) percentage points after adjustment for demographic characteristics and physical comorbidity. Suicide cases had a higher GP attendance in every week in the year before suicide, but the difference increased specifically in the last four months.

CONCLUSION: More than 30% attended the GP in the month before the suicide. This indicates that general practice could be a possible place to identify suicide cases and offer intervention. However, although this proportion represents a markedly higher GP attendance than seen in the reference group, almost 70% of those who died by suicide did not attend primary care in the month before the suicide. Our study suggests that it is important that the GPs have easy access to effective suicide prevention programs for patients at risk of suicide, and that persons with suicidal thoughts are encouraged to contact their GP.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)e0214605
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care/statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care/statistics & numerical data
  • Regression Analysis
  • Suicide, Completed/statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


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