Anxiety and its disorders as risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors: A meta-analytic review

Kate H. Bentley, Joseph C. Franklin, Jessica D. Ribeiro, Evan M. Kleiman, Kathryn R. Fox, Matthew K. Nock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are highly prevalent public health problems with devastating consequences. There is an urgent need to improve our understanding of risk factors for suicide to identify effective intervention targets. The aim of this meta-analysis was to examine the magnitude and clinical utility of anxiety and its disorders as risk factors for suicide ideation, attempts, and deaths. We conducted a literature search through December 2014; of the 65 articles meeting our inclusion criteria, we extracted 180 cases in which an anxiety-specific variable was used to longitudinally predict a suicide-related outcome. Results indicated that anxiety is a statistically significant, yet weak, predictor of suicide ideation (OR. = 1.49, 95% CI: 1.18, 1.88) and attempts (OR = 1.64, 95% CI: 1.47, 1.83), but not deaths (OR = 1.01, 95% CI: 0.87, 1.18). The strongest associations were observed for PTSD. Estimates were reduced after accounting for publication bias, and diagnostic accuracy analyses indicated acceptable specificity but poor sensitivity. Overall, the extant literature suggests that anxiety and its disorders, at least when these constructs are measured in isolation and as trait-like constructs, are relatively weak predictors of suicidal thoughts and behaviors over long follow-up periods. Implications for future research priorities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-46
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


  • Anxiety
  • Meta-analysis
  • Risk factor
  • Suicide


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