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Suicide as an outcome for mental disorders

A meta-analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2018

E. Clare Harris*
University Department of Psychiatry, Southampton
Brian Barraclough
University Department of Psychiatry, Southampton
Dr B. M. Barraclough, University Department of Psychiatry, Royal South Hants Hospital, Brintons Terrace, Southampton SO14 0YG, UK



Mental disorders have a strong association with suicide. This meta-analysis, or statistical overview, of the literature gives an estimate of the suicide risk of the common mental disorders.


We searched the medical literature to find reports on the mortality of mental disorders. English language reports were located on MEDLINE (1966–1993) with the search terms mental disorders', ‘brain injury’, ‘eating disorders’, ‘epilepsy’, ‘suicide attempt’, ‘psychosurgery’, with ‘mortality’ and ‘follow-up studies’, and from the reference lists of these reports. We abstracted 249 reports with two years or more follow-up and less than 10% loss of subjects, and compared observed numbers of suicides with those expected. A standardised mortality ratio (SMR) was calculated for each disorder.


Of 44 disorders considered, 36 have a significantly raised SMR for suicide, five have a raised SMR which fails to reach significance, one SMR is not raised and for two entries the SMR could not be calculated.


If these results can be generalised then virtually all mental disorders have an increased risk of suicide excepting mental retardation and dementia. The suicide risk is highest for functional and lowest for organic disorders with substance misuse disorders lying between. However, within these broad groupings the suicide risk varies widely.

Copyright © 1997 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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