Suicide exposures and bereavement among American adults: Evidence from the 2016 General Social Survey

William Feigelman, Julie Cerel, John L. McIntosh, David Brent, Nina Gutin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Background: We investigated lifetime suicide exposures and bereavement among a representative sample of American adults from the 2016 General Social Survey. Methods: Questions on lifetime suicide exposures, bereavement and mental health status were administered to 1432 respondents. Suicide exposed and bereaved respondents were compared to non-exposed respondents on three different measures of mental health functioning with cross tabulations and means comparison tests. Results: 51% of respondents had exposures to one suicide or more during their lifetimes, and 35% were deemed bereaved by suicide, having experienced moderate to severe emotional distress from their losses. Findings suggested more exposures and bereavements were associated with greater numbers of bad mental health days and more expectations of “having nervous breakdowns” but with no clear associations with CES-D scores. Conclusions: These findings suggest suicide exposures and bereavement are far more pervasive than commonly thought, with more than half of the population exposed and a third bereaved. Health professionals need to more actively assess for suicide exposures and bereavements, and be vigilant for significant impacts of suicide even when the suicide decedent is not a first degree family relative, helping to reduce the mental health distress presently associated with these experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support from these seven benefactors who helped finance this research project including: The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention ; The Irving Gutin Foundation ; The Swarm Family Fund at Indiana University .South Bend; The Dan's Plan Foundation ; SAVE Organization ; The Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation ; and The Norma Alkon Trust .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Mental health problems
  • Multiple suicide bereavements
  • Suicide bereavement
  • Suicide exposures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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