Suicide and impulsiveness in adolescence: a systematic literature review

Il suicidio e l’impulsività in adolescenza: una revisione sistematica della letteratura

G. Migliarese, M.G. Longo, C. Mencacci

Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, AO Fatebenefratelli e Oftalmico, Milano


Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for adolescents. It has been proposed that impulsiveness could have a preeminent role in suicide behavior in this population but to date no systematic review on impulsiveness and suicide in adolescence has been published. The aim of this paper was to review the literature on the association between impulsivity and suicide in adolescence, as high levels of impulsiveness have been proposed to be the final pathway to suicide, facilitating the passage from ideation to acting.


A literature research was conducted with Pubmed, Medline and Embase from 1980 to December 2010 in order to identify all studies investigating the relationship between impulsivity and suicide or attempted suicide among adolescents. We considered for the analysis only controlled studies carried-out with both retrospective and prospective designs, performed to assess the relationship between impulsivity and suicidal behavior among adolescents. No language selection has been used.


Despite the importance of the topic only a few number of studies (n = 7) was eligible for being included in this review. Globally, our results are mixed but, nevertheless, a preeminent role for impulsiveness in adolescent suicide cannot be excluded.


Even if further studies with larger sample sizes and most appropriate experimental designs are needed, the recognition and analysis of the high levels of impulsiveness in adolescents at risk for suicide should become one of the targets for clinicians, in order to combine a specific intervention on impulsiveness with standard intervention on psychopathology.

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