Heterogeneity in suicide risk: Evidence from personalized dynamic models

Behav Res Ther. 2024 May 23:180:104574. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2024.104574. Online ahead of print.


Most theories of suicide propose within-person changes in psychological states cause suicidal thoughts/behaviors; however, most studies use between-person analyses. Thus, there are little empirical data exploring current theories in the way they are hypothesized to occur. We used a form of statistical modeling called group iterative multiple model estimation (GIMME) to explore one theory of suicide: The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (IPTS). GIMME estimates personalized statistical models for each individual and associations shared across individuals. Data were from a real-time monitoring study of individuals with a history of suicidal thoughts/behavior (adult sample: participants = 111, observations = 25,242; adolescent sample: participants = 145, observations = 26,182). Across both samples, none of theorized IPTS effects (i.e., contemporaneous effect from hopeless to suicidal thinking) were shared at the group level. There was significant heterogeneity in the personalized models, suggesting there are different pathways through which different people come to experience suicidal thoughts/behaviors. These findings highlight the complexity of suicide risk and the need for more personalized approaches to assessment and prediction.

Keywords: Ecological momentary assessment; Heterogeneity; Hopelessness; Suicidal ideation; Suicide.