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Psychological Vulnerability to Completed Suicide: A Review of Empirical Studies


Address correspondence to Kenneth R. Conner, Box PSYCH, University of Rochester Medical Center, 300 Crittenden Blvd., Rochester, NY 14642. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to


Retrospective research shows that close to 90 percent of suicides have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder; however, only a small proportion of individuals with psychopathology take their own lives. This article reviews the empirical literature on psychological vulnerability to completed suicide. A search of the MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases yielded 46 cohort or case-control studies that used standardized or structured assessments of psychological dimensions. Five constructs have been consistently associated with completed suicide: impulsivity/aggression, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and self-consciousness/social disengagement. Current knowledge of psychological vulnerability to completed suicide could inform social and neurobiological research, and thereby deepen understanding of suicide while potentially bridging these areas of study.