Personality as a mediator of demographic risk factors for suicide attempts in a community sample

Richard A. Grucza, Thomas R. Przybeck, C. Robert Cloninger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to determine whether personality might partially explain associations between sociodemographic factors and self-reported suicide attempts. This analysis was motivated by reports that certain personality traits are logical targets for intervention, whereas sociodemographic characteristics are not generally modifiable. Data were from a postal survey sent to community residents who were previously selected at random (N = 912). Age, gender, health-insurance status, education, self-reported health, and marital history were identified as relevant sociodemographic predictors of having made one or more lifetime suicide attempts. Risk associated with each of these variables was mediated by the personality traits of self-directedness (SD) and harm avoidance (HA). In a multiple logistic-regression analysis constrained to sociodemographic predictors, only young age, female sex, poor self-reported health, and Medicaid status remained as predictors of suicide attempts. When personality factors were added to the model, all of the sociodemographic predictors except Medicaid status were rendered nonsignificant or marginally significant. Risk associated with gender was primarily related to HA, risk associated with poor self-reported health was mediated by both HA and SD, and the risk associated with young age was primarily mediated by SD; the last was the largest mediation effect observed. In contrast, risk associated with receipt of Medicaid, presumed to indicate low socioeconomic status, was not mediated by personality. We conclude that risk associated with certain nonmodifiable demographic factors is often mediated by potentially modifiable intrapersonal factors, such as SD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-222
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


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