Medical Student Suicide Rates: A Systematic Review of the Historical and International Literature

Caren J. Blacker, Charles P. Lewis, Cosima C. Swintak, J. Michael Bostwick, Sandra J. Rackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose Physician suicide rates are reportedly higher than those of the general population, but medical student suicide rates are not well studied. It is difficult to determine whether physician suicide rates can be predicted by medical student risk factors for suicide and difficult to identify those risk factors without knowing medical student suicide rates. The authors systematically reviewed the literature to collate data on medical student suicide rates. Method The authors searched the PubMed, Web of Science, and Library of Congress databases for papers published in any language before November 11, 2017. They identified 3,429 papers; after the initial screening process, they assessed 82 full-Text articles for eligibility. Twelve ultimately met the full inclusion criteria; meta-Analysis was not possible. Data regarding medical student suicide numbers and rates were extracted and compared with contemporaneous general population suicide rates using public epidemiological data, when available. Results Medical student suicide rates were infrequently reported in the historical and international literature, and data collection techniques were inconsistent. Generally, U.S. Medical student suicide rates were lower than those of the contemporaneous general population. Proportionate mortality of medical students (number of deaths by a particular cause such as suicide divided by total number of deaths) was not reported in the literature. Conclusions Gaps exist in knowledge of medical student suicide rates, risk factors, and targets for intervention. Significant barriers have impeded information collection. Yet, more comprehensive data collection is needed to understand suicide risk in this population and to implement and improve effective intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-280
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the Association of AmericanMedical Colleges.


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