Psychotic experiences and suicidal behavior: testing the influence of psycho-socioenvironmental factors



Research has produced inconsistent results with respect to whether the association between psychotic experiences and suicidal behavior is independent of co-occurring clinical and socioenvironmental factors, despite substantial evidence linking the two phenomena. This study tests whether a comprehensive set of demographic, socioenvironmental, and clinical variables account for the statistical association between psychotic experiences and suicidal behaviors.


We utilized blocked multivariable logistic regression models to analyze the association between 12-month psychotic experiences and 12-month suicide behaviors (ideation, plan, and attempt) on a subsample (N = 2307) of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. The models adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics, environmental factors in the form of childhood adversity, mental health service utilization, and psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.


Psychotic experiences were significantly associated with suicidal ideation, even after adjusting for socio-demographics, childhood adversity. However, the significant association between psychotic experiences and suicidal ideation was not robust to the inclusion of mental health service utilization and psychiatric disorders. There was no significant association between psychotic experiences and suicide plan. Psychotic experiences were associated with a significantly increased risk of reporting suicide attempts (OR 6.52; 95% CI 1.36–31.11), even after adjusting for the full set of variables.


Although psychotic experiences were not associated with suicidal ideation after statistical adjustments, psychotic experiences were associated with a significantly increased risk of suicide attempts after the inclusion of common risk factors and co-morbidities. Thus, psychotic experiences should be included in routine psychiatric assessments to identify the individuals most at risk for attempting suicide.

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This research was supported by a young investigator Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Grant YIG-1-042-16 to Dr. DeVylder). Emily Hielscher is supported by the Dr. F and Mrs. ME Zaccari Scholarship, Australia. James Scott is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Practitioner Fellowship Grant APP1105807 and is employed by the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research which receives core funding from Queensland Health.

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Correspondence to Jordan DeVylder.

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DeVylder, J., Waldman, K., Hielscher, E. et al. Psychotic experiences and suicidal behavior: testing the influence of psycho-socioenvironmental factors. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 55, 1167–1177 (2020).

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  • Psychosis
  • Suicide
  • Attempts
  • Epidemiology
  • NCS-R