Suicide rates and suicidal behaviour in displaced people

Added April 14, 2022

Citation: Cogo E, Murray M, Villanueva G, et al. Suicide rates and suicidal behaviour in displaced people: A systematic review. PLoS ONE. 2022;17(3):e0263797.

Language: Abstract and full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: Research, Evidence and Development Initiative (READ-It) through UK Aid from the UK government.

What is this? Refugees and other people forcibly displaced by conflicts face mental distress and may be disproportionally affected by risk factors for suicide.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies of suicide, suicide attempts or suicidal ideation among people forcibly displaced by conflict or war. They did not restrict their searches by date or language of publication and did the most recent search in August 2020. They included information from 87 articles reporting 77 studies (53 in general samples and 24 in specific samples). The studies in general samples were in low- (6 studies), middle- (16) and high-income countries (41).

What was found: Suicide rates varied considerably, from 4 to 290 per 100,000 person-years.

Prevalence of suicide attempts ranged from 0.4% to 15.1% and varied according to the prevalence period evaluated.

Prevalence of suicidal ideation varied from 0.17% to 70.6%.

There was a lower risk of suicide among refugees granted asylum compared to the host country population but a higher risk among asylum seekers.

There was a higher risk of suicidal ideation among refugees living in camps compared to the host country population.

Implications: The authors of the review concluded that the high prevalence of mental disorders in displaced people means that there is a need to invest in prevention and care of mental disorders in this vulnerable group. They also stated that host countries should increase efforts to prevent suicide in asylum seekers by taking steps such as speeding up asylum processes, improving social conditions and investing in better mental health prevention and management interventions.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of time-dependent relationships (i.e. forced displacement and asylum status).


This summary was prepared by Catherine Haynes, edited by Sydney Johnson and finalized by Mike Clarke.

Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the health of refugees and asylum seekers but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the health of refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of this summary alone. The text can be shared and re-used without charge, citing Evidence Aid as the source and noting the date on which you took the text.


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