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In BJPsych open

BACKGROUND : Suicide prediction models have been formulated in a variety of ways and are heterogeneous in the strength of their predictions. Machine learning has been a proposed as a way of improving suicide predictions by incorporating more suicide risk factors.

AIMS : To determine whether machine learning and the number of suicide risk factors included in suicide prediction models are associated with the strength of the resulting predictions.

METHOD : Random-effect meta-analysis of exploratory suicide prediction models constructed by combining two or more suicide risk factors or using clinical judgement (Prospero Registration CRD42017059665). Studies were located by searching for papers indexed in PubMed before 15 August 2020 with the term suicid* in the title.

RESULTS : In total, 86 papers reported 102 suicide prediction models and included 20 210 411 people and 106 902 suicides. The pooled odds ratio was 7.7 (95% CI 6.7-8.8) with high between-study heterogeneity (I2 = 99.5). Machine learning was associated with a non-significantly higher odds ratio of 11.6 (95% CI 6.0-22.3) and clinical judgement with a non-significantly lower odds ratio of 4.7 (95% CI 2.1-10.9). Models including a larger number of suicide risk factors had a higher odds ratio when machine-learning studies were included (P = 0.02). Among non-machine-learning studies, suicide prediction models including fewer risk factors performed just as well as those including more risk factors.

CONCLUSIONS : Machine learning might have the potential to improve the performance of suicide prediction models by increasing the number of included suicide risk factors but its superiority over other methods is unproven.

Corke Michelle, Mullin Katherine, Angel-Scott Helena, Xia Shelley, Large Matthew


Suicide, risk assessment, self-harm, suicide attempt