Suicide attempts in bipolar I and bipolar II disorder: a review and meta-analysis of the evidence


  • HAS has received grant support from Bristol-Myers Squibb and is a consultant to Pfizer, Servier, and WebMD. EF serves as an advisor to Servier and receives royalties from Guilford Press for a book about bipolar disorder. DMN has no conflict of interest to disclose.

Corresponding author:
Danielle M. Novick
Department of Psychiatry
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
3811 O’Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
Fax: 412-246-5520


Novick DM, Swartz HA, Frank E. Suicide attempts in bipolar I and bipolar II disorder: a review and meta-analysis of the evidence. Bipolar Disord 2010: 12: 1–9. © 2010 The Authors.
Journal compilation © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objective:  The prevalence of suicide attempts (SA) in bipolar II disorder (BPII), particularly in comparison to the prevalence in bipolar I disorder (BPI), is an understudied and controversial issue with mixed results. To date, there has been no comprehensive review of the published prevalence data for attempted suicide in BPII.

Methods:  We conducted a literature review and meta-analysis of published reports that specified the proportion of individuals with BPII in their presentation of SA data. Systematic searching yielded 24 reports providing rates of SA in BPII and 21 reports including rates of SA in both BPI and BPII. We estimated the prevalence of SA in BPII by combining data across reports of similar designs. To compare rates of SA in BPII and BPI, we calculated a pooled odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) with random-effect meta-analytic techniques with retrospective data from 15 reports that detailed rates of SA in both BPI and BPII.

Results:  Among the 24 reports with any BPII data, 32.4% (356/1099) of individuals retrospectively reported a lifetime history of SA, 19.8% (93/469) prospectively reported attempted suicide, and 20.5% (55/268) of index attempters were diagnosed with BPII. In 15 retrospective studies suitable for meta-analysis, the prevalence of attempted suicide in BPII and BPI was not significantly different: 32.4% and 36.3%, respectively (OR = 1.21, 95% CI: 0.98–1.48, p = 0.07).

Conclusion:  The contribution of BPII to suicidal behavior is considerable. Our findings suggest that there is no significant effect of bipolar subtype on rate of SA. Our findings are particularly alarming in concert with other evidence, including (i) the well-documented predictive role of SA for completed suicide and (ii) the evidence suggesting that individuals with BPII use significantly more violent and lethal methods than do individuals with BPI. To reduce suicide-related morbidity and mortality, routine clinical care for BPII must include ongoing risk assessment and interventions targeted at risk factors.