Background: Few studies have examined the effect of pandemics on suicide-related outcomes. Aims: We examined whether suicidal ideation levels among the general population changed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic by tracking individuals between January and April 2020. Method: We used a prospective observational longitudinal design (n = 6,683) and stratified sampling to conduct online surveys of the general adult population in Japan before (baseline) and during the pandemic (follow-up). Results: Suicidal ideation levels were significantly lower during than before the pandemic; however, the effect size was very small. Participants who were younger, with unstable employment, without children, with low income, and receiving psychiatric care were more likely to have higher suicidal ideation levels during the pandemic. Limitations: Because this was an Internet survey and subject to selection bias, the sample was not necessarily representative of the Japanese population. At the time of the survey, COVID-19 cases and deaths in Japan were relatively lower than in other developed countries. The dropout rate may have affected the results. Conclusion: Although the short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicidal ideation is limited, relatively young and economically vulnerable individuals are more likely to show exacerbated suicidal ideation during the pandemic.
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