Background: Physical illness is a strong correlate of suicidal behavior. However, its impact on attempted suicide in rural China is under-studied. Aims: This study was designed to assess the influence of physical illness on risk of suicide attempts and to identify distinguishing characteristics among medically serious suicide attempters with physical illnesses from those without. Method: Participants were medically serious suicide attempters identified through hospital emergency rooms (n = 659) as well as age- and gender-matched community controls (n = 659) from Shandong Province, China. Face-to-face interviews with the respondents were conducted with a semistructured protocol that included sociodemographic and psychological measures. Results: Physical illness was a significant risk factor for medically serious suicide attempts (OR = 1.739, 95% CI = 1.182-2.560). Older age was a significant risk factor, while female gender, no religion, and non-peasant occupations were significant protective factors for suicide attempts with physical illness. Limitations: Samples from only one province may not completely represent all serious suicide attempters in China. Furthermore, we did not assess the severity and the degree to which their physical illness limited the functioning of the individual. Conclusion: Physical illness is an important risk factor for suicide attempts in rural China. More efforts are needed to specifically target older people, males, those with religious beliefs, and peasant workers with physical illness.