The objective of this review was to summarize and interpret data about adverse life events proximal to adult suicide from major psychological autopsy studies. A PubMed search was conducted. Nearly all suicides have experienced at least 1 (usually more) adverse life event within 1 year of death (concentrated in last few months). Controlled studies have revealed specific life events, notably interpersonal conflict, as risk factors for suicide with some evidence of a dose-response effect. Some of the risk is independent of mental disorder. The suicidogenic impact of adverse life events, especially interpersonal conflict, necessitates specific objectives in suicide prevention strategies. Cultural influences on relative contributions of adversity and mental disorder to suicide warrant further research. Limitations of psychological autopsy studies suggest the need for complementary research into life events prior to serious suicide attempts.