Many studies have documented robust relationships between depression and hopelessness and subsequent suicidal thoughts and behaviours; however, much weaker and non-significant effects have also been reported. These inconsistencies raise questions about whether and to what degree these factors confer risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
This study aimed to evaluate the magnitude and clinical utility of depression and hopelessness as risk factors for suicide ideation, attempts and death.
We conducted a meta-analysis of published studies from 1971 to 31 December 2014 that included at least one longitudinal analysis predicting suicide ideation, attempt or death using any depression or hopelessness variable.
Overall prediction was weaker than anticipated, with weighted mean odds ratios of 1.96 (1.81–2.13) for ideation, 1.63 (1.55–1.72) for attempt and 1.33 (1.18–1.49) for death. Adjusting for publication bias further reduced estimates. Effects generally persisted regardless of sample severity, sample age or follow-up length.
Several methodological constraints were prominent across studies; addressing these issues would likely be fruitful moving forward.
Declaration of interest