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Background: Nurses have been identified as an occupational group at increased risk of suicide. This systematic review examines the prevalence of, and factors influencing, suicide and related behaviours among nurses and midwives (PROSPERO pre-registration CRD42021270297). Methods: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL were searched. Articles published from 1996 onwards exploring suicidal thoughts and behaviours among nurses and midwives were included. Quality of included studies was assessed. Articles were subjected to narrative synthesis informed by suicide data examined, study design, and quality. PRISMA guidelines were followed. Results: A total of 100 studies were eligible for inclusion in the review. Articles examining suicide exclusively among midwives were absent from the literature. Several studies confirmed that nursing professionals, especially female, are at increased risk of suicide, particularly by self-poisoning. Factors contributing to risk include psychiatric disorders, alcohol and substance misuse, physical health problems, and occupational and interpersonal difficulties. In studies of non-fatal suicidal behaviours, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, psychiatric, psychological, physical and occupational factors were contributory. There has been little investigation of interventions for prevention of suicide in nurses. Limitations: Only articles published in English language were reviewed. Conclusions: The findings highlight the risk of suicide in nurses. They also show a combination of factors contribute to suicide and non-fatal suicidal behaviour in nurses, with psychiatric, psychological, physical health, occupational and substance misuse (especially alcohol) problems being particularly important. The limited evidence regarding prevention measures indicates a major need to develop primary and secondary interventions for this at-risk occupational group, for example, education regarding enhancing wellbeing and safe alcohol use, alongside accessible psychological support.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Affective Disorders

Publication Date





393 - 404