Identifying unique subgroups in suicide risks among psychiatric outpatients

Eun Namgung, Eunji Ha, Sujung Yoon, Yumi Song, Hyangwon Lee, Hee Ju Kang, Jung Soo Han, Jae Min Kim, Wonhye Lee, In Kyoon Lyoo, Seog Ju Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The presence of psychiatric disorders is widely recognized as one of the primary risk factors for suicide. A significant proportion of individuals receiving outpatient psychiatric treatment exhibit varying degrees of suicidal behaviors, which may range from mild suicidal ideations to overt suicide attempts. This study aims to elucidate the transdiagnostic symptom dimensions and associated suicidal features among psychiatric outpatients. Methods: The study enrolled patients who attended the psychiatry outpatient clinic at a tertiary hospital in South Korea (n = 1, 849, age range = 18–81; 61% women). A data-driven classification methodology was employed, incorporating a broad spectrum of clinical symptoms, to delineate distinctive subgroups among psychiatric outpatients exhibiting suicidality (n = 1189). A reference group of patients without suicidality (n = 660) was included for comparative purposes to ascertain cluster-specific sociodemographic, suicide-related, and psychiatric characteristics. Results: Psychiatric outpatients with suicidality (n = 1189) were subdivided into three distinctive clusters: the low-suicide risk cluster (Cluster 1), the high-suicide risk externalizing cluster (Cluster 2), and the high-suicide risk internalizing cluster (Cluster 3). Relative to the reference group (n = 660), each cluster exhibited distinct attributes pertaining to suicide-related characteristics and clinical symptoms, covering domains such as anxiety, externalizing and internalizing behaviors, and feelings of hopelessness. Cluster 1, identified as the low-suicide risk group, exhibited less frequent suicidal ideation, planning, and multiple attempts. In the high-suicide risk groups, Cluster 2 displayed pronounced externalizing symptoms, whereas Cluster 3 was primarily defined by internalizing and hopelessness symptoms. Bipolar disorders were most common in Cluster 2, while depressive disorders were predominant in Cluster 3. Discussion: Our findings suggest the possibility of differentiating psychiatric outpatients into distinct, clinically relevant subgroups predicated on their suicide risk. This research potentially paves the way for personalizing interventions and preventive strategies that address cluster-specific characteristics, thereby mitigating suicide-related mortality among psychiatric outpatients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152463
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
StatePublished - May 2024

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  • Anxiety
  • Clustering
  • Externalizing symptom
  • Hopelessness
  • Internalizing symptom
  • Psychiatric outpatient
  • Suicidality


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