Seven hundred and twenty subjects from a general population survey were interviewed as to the occurrence of suicidal feelings of five different degrees. A total of 8.9 per cent reported suicidal feelings of some degree in the past year. Responses ranged along a continuum such that subjects reporting more intense feelings also reported the less intense. For 3.5 per cent the maximum intensity consisted only of feelings that life was not worth while; 2.8 per cent reached the point of wishing themselves dead, 1 per cent the point of having thought of taking their lives, 1 per cent seriously considered suicide or made plans, and 0.6 per cent made an actual suicide attempt.
Subjects experiencing suicidal feelings in the last year reported more minor psychiatric symptoms, particularly of depression, were more socially isolated, less religious, and to a lesser extent had experienced more stressful events and more somatic illness. In these respects they resembled descriptions of completed suicides. Unlike suicides, however, they were more likely to be female and did not show any other specific demographic characteristics.