Year: 2016 Source: Plos One. (2016).doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156322 SIEC No: 20160213

Objective: It is widely assumed that the clinical care of psychiatric patients can be guided by estimates of suicide risk and by using patient characteristics to define a group of high-risk patients. However, the statistical strength and reliability of suicide risk categorization is unknown. Our objective was to investigate the odds of suicide in high-risk compared to lower-risk categories and the suicide rates in high-risk and lower-risk groups. The pooled odds of suicide among high-risk patients compared to lower-risk patients calculated by random effects meta-analysis was of 4.84 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 3.79-6.20). Between-study heterogeneity was very high (I2 = 93.3). There was no evidence that more recent studies had greater statistical strength than older studies. Over an average follow up period of 63 months the proportion of suicides among the high-risk patients was 5.5% and was 0.9% among lower-risk patients. The meta-analytically derived sensitivity and specificity of a high-risk categorization were 56% and 79% respectively. There was evidence of publication bias in favour of studies that inflated the pooled odds of suicide in high-risk patients. Conclusions: The strength of suicide risk categorizations based on the presence of multiple risk factors does not greatly exceed the association between individual suicide risk factors and suicide. A statistically strong and reliable method to usefully distinguish patients with a high-risk of suicide remains elusive.