A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between alexithymia and suicide ideation and behaviour

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Abstract

Background: Alexithymia reflects a difficulty with identifying and expressing emotions. This experience has been proposed as having an association with suicide ideation and behaviour. This review aimed to synthesise the evidence to establish the bivariate and multivariate relationships between alexithymia, and its subcomponents, with suicide ideation and behaviour. Methods: Search terms related to alexithymia and suicide ideation and behaviour were searched across nine prominent databases in May 2018. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they reported original empirical quantitative findings from adult samples, used a validated measure of alexithymia, and any measure of suicide ideation or behaviour. Results: Thirty-four studies were eligible for inclusion in this review. The review found a large effect size for the relationship between alexithymia and suicide ideation (r=0.54, 95% CI= 0.40-0.65) and a small effect size for the relationship between alexithymia and suicide behaviour (r=0.25, 95% CI = 0.16-0.34). Limitations: A high level of heterogeneity was found in the meta-analysis meaning that results should be interpreted with caution. Conclusion: A positive association was found between alexithymia and suicide ideation and, to a lesser extent, behaviour across a range of clinical and general population samples. This review has potentially important clinical implications, and promotes the need for suicide prevention to focus on emotion regulation skills.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34
Number of pages48
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume254
Early online date8 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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