Risk factors for attempted suicide in depressed psychiatric patients
Apr 6, 2005 - 6:31:38 PM

Suicide attempts among psychiatric patients with major depression are strongly associated with the presence and severity of depressive symptoms, and are predicted by the lack of a partner, previous suicide attempts and time spent in depression.

Published in the April issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, this new research from Finland is one of the few prospective studies on risk factors for attempted suicide among psychiatric in- and out-patients with major depression.

The Vantaa Depression Study was carried out in Finland's fourth largest city. It included 269 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder using semi-structured interviews, who were then followed up six months and 18 months later.

During the 18-month follow-up period, 8% of the patients attempted suicide. The risk of an attempt was nearly eight times higher during a major depressive episode, compared with a period of full remission, when the patient was not depressed. The risk was 2.5 times higher during a period of partial remission.

Other factors associated with depression include anxiety, substance use and personality disorder, all of which independently increase the risk of suicide attempts.

The authors of the study interpret the findings as evidence for the causal role of depression in suicide attempts. Reducing the time spent in depression could be a credible method of preventing them.

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