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Rimkeviciene J, O’Gorman J, De Leo D. Impulsive suicide attempts: A systematic literature review of definitions, characteristics and risk factors. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2015 Jan; 171:93-104

Monday, March 2, 2015



Extensive research on impulsive suicide attempts, but lack of agreement on the use of this term indicates the need for a systematic literature review of the area. The aim of this review was to examine definitions and likely correlates of impulsive attempts.


A search of Medline, Psychinfo, Scopus, Proquest and Web of Knowledge databases was conducted. Additional articles were identified using the cross-referencing function of Google Scholar.


179 relevant papers were identified. Four different groups of research criteria used to assess suicide attempt impulsivity emerged: (a) time-related criteria, (b) absence of proximal planning/preparations, (c) presence of suicide plan in lifetime/previous year, and (d) other. Subsequent analysis used these criteria to compare results from different studies on 20 most researched hypotheses. Conclusions regarding the characteristics of impulsive attempts are more consistent than those on the risk factors specific to such attempts. No risk factors were identified that uniformly related to suicide attempt impulsivity across all criteria groups, but relationships emerged between separate criteria and specific characteristics of suicide attempters.


Only published articles were included. Large inconsistencies in methods of the studies included in this review prevented comparison of effect sizes.


The vast disparities in findings on risk factors for impulsive suicide attempts among different criteria groups suggest the need to address the methodological issues in defining suicide attempt impulsivity before further research into correlates of such attempts can effectively progress. Specific recommendations are offered for necessary research.


Impulsive suicide, Planning, Planned suicide, Suicide attempts, Impulsivity