Background: Violent loss (i.e. loss through homicide, suicide, or accident) is associated with high levels of prolonged grief disorder (PGD).
Objective: The current meta-analysis aims at identifying correlates of PGD in adults exposed to violent loss.
Method: We conducted a systematic literature search in PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus. We used the Pearson correlation coefficient r as an effect size measure and a random effects model was applied to calculate effect sizes.
Results: Thirty-seven eligible studies published between 2003 and 2017 (N = 5911) revealed 29 potential correlates. Most studies used a cross-sectional design. Analyses revealed large significant effect sizes for comorbid psychopathology (r = .50–.59), suicidality (r = .41, 95% confidence interval [CI] [.30; .52]), and rumination (r = .42, 95% CI [.31; .52]), while medium effect sizes were found for exposure to traumatic events and factors concerning the relationship to the deceased. Small effect sizes emerged for sociodemographic characteristics, multiple loss, physical symptoms, and religious beliefs. Ten variables did not show a significant association with PGD. Heterogeneity and a small number of studies assessing certain correlates were observed.
Conclusions: The associations with psychological disorders may indicate shared mechanisms of psychopathology. Moreover, we recommend that clinicians carefully assess suicidal ideation among individuals with PGD who have been exposed to violent loss. Further research is warranted using longitudinal study designs with large sample sizes to understand the relevance of these factors for the development of PGD.