BACKGROUND: Although often providing more reliable and informative findings relative to other study designs, longitudinal investigations of prevalence and predictors of suicidal behaviour remain uncommon. This paper compares 12-month prevalence rates for suicidal ideation and suicide attempt at baseline and follow-up; identifies new cases and remissions; and assesses the capacity of baseline data to predict serious suicidality at follow-up, focusing on age and gender differences. METHODS: 6,666 participants aged 20-29, 40-49 and 60-69 years were drawn from the first (1999-2001) and second (2003-2006) waves of a general population survey. Analyses involved multivariate logistic regression. RESULTS: At follow-up, prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt had decreased (8.2%-6.1%, and 0.8%-0.5%, respectively). However, over one quarter of those reporting serious suicidality at baseline still experienced it four years later. Females aged 20-29 never married or diagnosed with a physical illness at follow-up were at greater risk of serious suicidality (OR = 4.17, 95% CI = 3.11-5.23; OR = 3.18, 95% CI = 2.09-4.26, respectively). Males aged 40-49 not in the labour force had increased odds of serious suicidality (OR = 4.08, 95% CI = 1.6-6.48) compared to their equivalently-aged and employed counterparts. Depressed/anxious females aged 60-69 were nearly 30% more likely to be seriously suicidal. CONCLUSIONS: There are age and gender differentials in the risk factors for suicidality. Life-circumstances contribute substantially to the onset of serious suicidality, in addition to symptoms of depression and anxiety. These findings are particularly pertinent to the development of effective population-based suicide prevention strategies.