Critical issues in psychological autopsy studies

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2006 Oct;36(5):491-510. doi: 10.1521/suli.2006.36.5.491.


This paper reviews research based on the psychological autopsy (PA) method applied to the study of suicide. It evidences the presence of a number of methodological problems. Shortcomings concern sampling biases in the selection of control subjects, confounding influences of extraneous variables, and reliability of the assessment instruments. The absence of homogeneity among studies in the procedure employed, as well as the lack of defined guidelines for performing this type of inquiry are emphasized. Questions needing empirical investigation in the future are pointed out. It is concluded that the validity and reliability of findings emerging from the use of this method of investigation would benefit from a standardization of its application.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Bias
  • Control Groups
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Research Design
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Time Factors