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May 2017

Does Spousal Suicide Have a Measurable Adverse Effect on the Surviving Partner?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(5):443-444. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0218

Suicide often has been viewed as a quintessentially individual act, frequently driven by innermost thoughts and despair and shrouded by profound loneliness and social isolation. But we also know from lived experience that it is an extraordinarily powerful social act, tearing through families and communities and carrying the potential to cause festering wounds and poorly healed scars. Yet there have been few studies that have documented quantitatively the ramifying health effects of suicide among family members or spouses or clarifying whether deaths by suicide affect the lives of surviving kin more than deaths from other causes. Erlangsen et al1 now have used the extraordinary leverage that arises from linking Danish national registry data sets to examine these issues. Despite some limitations, this research clarifies what happens to spouses whose partner killed himself/herself.

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