Background: It is well known that most suicide cases meet criteria for a psychiatric disorder. However, rates of specific disorders vary considerably between studies and little information is known about gender and geographic differences. This study provides overall rates of total and specific psychiatric disorders in suicide completers and presents evidence supporting gender and geographic differences in their relative proportion.
Methods: We carried out a review of studies in which psychological autopsy studies of suicide completers were performed. Studies were identified by means of MEDLINE database searches and by scanning the reference list of relevant publications. Twenty-three variables were defined, 16 of which evaluating psychiatric disorders. Mantel-Haenszel Weighted Odds Ratios were estimated for these 16 outcome variables.
Results: Twenty-seven studies comprising 3275 suicides were included, of which, 87.3% (SD 10.0%) had been diagnosed with a mental disorder prior to their death. There were major gender differences. Diagnoses of substance-related problems (OR = 3.58; 95% CI: 2.78-4.61), personality disorders (OR = 2.01; 95% CI: 1.38-2.95) and childhood disorders (OR = 4.95; 95% CI: 2.69-9.31) were more common among male suicides, whereas affective disorders (OR = 0.66; 95% CI: 0.53-0.83), including depressive disorders (OR = 0.53; 95% CI: 0.42-0.68) were less common among males. Geographical differences are also likely to be present in the relative proportion of psychiatric diagnoses among suicides.
Conclusions: Although psychopathology clearly mediates suicide risk, gender and geographical differences seem to exist in the relative proportion of the specific psychiatric disorders found among suicide completers.