The cost of being perfect: perfectionism and suicide ideation in university students


  • Teresa K. Hamilton,

  • Robert D. Schweitzer

  • Robert D. Schweitzer, Head of Counselling Services (Correspondence); Teresa K. Hamilton, Postgraduate Student.

    Counselling Service, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland 4059, Australia. Email:


Objective: The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between dimensions of perfectionism and suicide ideation in a tertiary student population in Australia.

Method: The methodology involved 405 students completing the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) which includes a subset of questions which can be used to assess suicide ideation, and the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale.

Results: The presence of suicide ideation was associated with higher scores on total perfectionism and two perfectionism dimensions, and total GHQ scores. There were significant differences between participants with high levels of perfectionism and participants with moderate to low levels of perfectionism on a measure of suicide ideation. Neither gender nor age were associated with differences in the scores, with results indicating high levels of perfectionism may indicate a vulnerability to suicide ideation.

Conclusions: Perfectionism is a valued attribute in high-achieving populations. The question needs to be asked, however, at what cost? The findings indicate that high levels of perfectionism may be associated with an increased vulnerability to suicide ideation. Future research is needed to gain a better understanding of the complex interrelationship between personality and temperament, environmental factors and self-destructive behaviour.