Year: 2019 Source: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. (2019). 54, 1459–1470. doi:10.1007/s00127-019-01759-x SIEC No: 20190833

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) have been a persistent problem worldwide. Identifying risk factors for STBs across distinct areas of the world may help predict who or where requires the greatest attention. However, risk factors for STBs are infrequently explored cross-nationally. The present study examined whether psychopathology prospectively predicts STBs across different areas of the world, and whether certain country-level factors moderate the degree of risk conferred.

We conducted a meta-analysis of 71 longitudinal studies from 30 different countries that featured psychopathology-related variables predicting STB outcomes. Meta-regression was used to evaluate whether the following country-level factors modified risk: geographic region, income level, and degree of mental health structural stigma.

Over 90% of studies had been conducted in North America and Europe. When assessed by country income level, it was found that only one longitudinal study on psychopathology and STB was conducted outside of a high-income country. Moreover, less than 10% of studies were conducted in high structural stigma contexts. Meta-regression findings revealed that the variation in risk effect sizes across studies was not explained by models including country-level factors.

Our findings show critical underrepresentation of low- and middle-income countries, which account for a large proportion of global suicide deaths. This reveals a need to broaden the scope of longitudinal research on STB risk, such that countries across more regions, income levels, and degrees of structural stigma are fully accounted for. Such lines of research will improve generalizability of findings, and more precisely inform prevention efforts worldwide.