Definition: A proximal risk factor is a risk factor that represents an immediate vulnerability for a particular condition or event. Sometimes proximal risk factors precipitate an event. For example, an intensely stressful life experience, such as a divorce or loss of a job, is a proximal risk factor for a suicide attempt. This type of experience often occurs immediately prior to a suicide attempt. In contrast, distal risk factors represent background characteristics that may put someone at risk for an event or condition at some point in his lifetime (not immediately).