How common is suicide in the absence of mental disorder? Int Jl Soci Psy.Sep.2013


It is generally thought that around 90% of  people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. Considerable geographical difference has been seen in this relationship. Psychological autopsy (PA)  still remains a reasonably sound methodology to investigate this.How common is suicide in the absence of a mental disorder?

Allison Milner, Jerneja Sveticic and Diego De Leo report the results of a  systematic review of the relationship  between suicide among those with out mental illness. All studies published  in or after 2000 using case control PA design were included. Identification of mental disorders needed to be reliant on objective assessment post- mortem, rather than possible diagnoses received when the subject was alive.


29 studies were included in the final analysis. All studies matched suicide cases with controls. Up to 68 % of suicide cases remained without diagnosis in those studies that only examined Axis I disorders. his varied widely from 6% to 68%. Studies from China , India and Italy reported higher rates of absence of mental disorder than American studies. It is possible that suicide in these areas might be related to social stress/ cultural attitudes. Stigma of reporting mental illness is another factor to consider.

36% of cases did not have an axis 1 or 2 disorders. Variation in definition of axis 2 and methods used to measure them is worth noting. China, Hungary and Colombia reported substantially lower personality disorder in suicide cases.

Cultural differences in the construct of personality disorder is likely to play an important part here. Classifying ‘sadness’ as an abnormal experience and making diagnosis of mental disorder  when one experience distress and sadness- ‘pathologisation’ is probably more in American/European culture.

There has been little research into suicide deaths occurring in the absence of mental disorder in high-income western contexts. Available information indicate that atleast 10% of suicides occur in those without ant diagnosable mental disorder.


In many countries, good proportion of people committing suicide have no mental disorder. Even in countries where vast majority of those who commit suicide have diagnosable  mental disorder (in retrospect , by PA methods) majority of suicides occur among people not in contact with mental health services ( in UK two thirds of suicide occur among those not in contact with mental health services in the past year). More research is required to understand the psychological processes and pathways involved in suicide occurring in those without detectable mental disorders in order to formulate appropriate prevention interventions.

Summary of the article:

Suicide in the absence of mental disorder? A review of psychological autopsy studies across countries.Milner A, Sveticic J, De Leo D. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2013 Sep;59(6):545-54.

One thought on “How common is suicide in the absence of mental disorder? Int Jl Soci Psy.Sep.2013

  1. Sociologist believe Social and Economic factors to be the main cause for Suicides. But one always finds highest rates are in Sweden a country which has less poverty and good health system.Any Sociological theories here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s