The psychological autopsy approach to studying suicide: a review of methodological issues

J Affect Disord. 1998 Sep;50(2-3):269-76. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(98)00033-0.


The psychological autopsy approach to studying suicide is becoming an increasingly used research method. It presents considerable methodological problems. In order to assist future researchers in this field and to help readers assess reports of psychological autopsy studies the authors have reviewed these issues on the basis of their own experience and those of other workers. The areas covered include research design, identification of subjects, sources of information and the particular issues concerned with approaching relatives and other informants, choice and recruitment of controls, the difficulties of conducting psychological autopsy interviews with relatives, problems for interviewers, the selection of appropriate measures to obtain information, and achieving valid and reasonably reliable conclusions from diverse information sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / psychology*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Family Relations
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Suicide / psychology*